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Clean Up Your Act: Scrub Those Hands

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May 31, 2010

Chicago -

Keeping hands clean is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of infection and illness

Clean hands every time. It sounds easy enough, but two-thirds of Americans fall short in adopting the habit of washing their hands. Without proper hand hygiene, 80 percent of infections are transmitted through touch. If hands are kept clean, the transmission of germs from person to person is greatly reduced. Unfortunately there are some misconceptions about how and when hand washing should be done. Northwestern Memorial Hospital encourages its employees, patients and visitors to do their part to prevent the spread of viruses and offers a few reminders on how to properly wash your hands.   

Clean your hands frequently – Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Sing “Happy Birthday” two times. If you can’t get to a sink use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer gel or wipes, which kills bacteria and fights more germs than plain and antimicrobial soap.

Remember when to wash – As you touch people, surfaces and objects, you accumulate germs on your hands. Although it's impossible to keep your hands germ-free, washing your hands frequently can help limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes.  Be sure to wash your hands before preparing or eating food, treating wounds or giving medicine and tending to a sick or injured person. Wash your hands after you eat, use the toilet, change a diaper, touch an animal, blow your nose, cough or sneeze, handle garbage and treat a sick or injured person.

Cover your nose and mouth – When you sneeze or cough, any germs you have can be spread to others. You can reduce the spread of germs by covering your nose and mouth with a tissue any time you sneeze or cough. If you don’t have a tissue, we recommend coughing or sneezing into your arm rather than into your hands.

Avoid close contact with others who are sick – Whenever possible, stay away from people who are sick. If you must care for a sick person, wash your hands frequently and consider following the CDC’s guidelines for caring for people with the flu.

Hand washing doesn't take much time or effort, but it offers great rewards in terms of preventing illness. Remember, clean hands every time. 

Learn more about how Northwestern is preventing viruses.

Media Contact:

Angela Salerno
Senior Associate
Media Relations

Last UpdateFebruary 8, 2011