It’s Handwashing Awareness Week – You’re Doing It Wrong!


This Straight, No Chaser is for National Handwashing Awareness Week and its related activities.

handwashing awareness week

Yes, we need to have this conversation. I see you all day everyday. The simplest of acts – washing your hands – is also one of your most important daily acts. Doing it right helps you avoid all manner of illness. Doing it incorrect creates opportunities for disease to exist at multiple places on and in your body.

Of course the above picture is not an actual photo, but it’s a good depiction of what’s happening. Simply put, most of the day, your hands are pretty disgusting. You handle money that’s been handed hundreds if not thousands of times and never cleaned. You grab handles and door knobs all day long. You’re coughing and sneezing throughout the day, spewing germs into the air to be inhaled by others. And you spend time in the restroom. Your unclean hands contribute to many ailments, including colds, influenza, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea) and skin infections.

Are you sickly or do you get colds more frequently than others? Respectfully, a big part of that is because you have habits that put you at risk. Common things happen commonly.

Simple Steps to Lower Your Risk


  1. Do it right

    Experts recommend washing your hands with soap and clean water for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to get a good lather going and clean the back of the hands, between the fingers and under the nails. Dry them using a clean towel. There is a lot of science behind these recommendations, so be sure to follow them each time you wash your hands.

  2. Memorize the five steps

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls hand washing “a do-it-yourself vaccine” and suggests remembering five easy steps: Wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry.

  3. Learn the Four Principles of Hand Awareness

    Endorsed by the American Medical Association and American Academy of Family Physicians, the four principles are: 1) Wash your hands when they are dirty and before eating; 2) Do not cough into hands; 3) Do not sneeze into hands; and 4) Don’t put your fingers in your eyes, nose or mouth.

These important points are simple things you can do to lower your risk for infections. First, you have to stop assuming you know more than you do about basic hygiene and allow yourself to start practicing better habits. For example …

  • When you sneeze, do you sneeze into your hands or into the air around you? Please learn the habit covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough by sneezing/coughing into your elbow and not your hands.
  • How often do you wash your hands? You must wash every time you begin to cook, before you eat, after you use the rest room, before you change a diaper and before you apply any topical medicine.
  • Have you ever noticed how much you keep your hands on parts of you that can become infected by doing so? Keep your hands out of your eyes, mouth and nose, and stop picking at your skin!

handwashing hygiene

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