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December 2005

NHM Health Focus: Handwashing

Handwashing Info:

Why is handwashing important? (CDC)
Clean Hands Save Lives (CDC)
Germs and Hygiene (MedlinePlus, NLM)

Stopping Germs at Home, Work and School (CDC)
Food Safety Links: Handwashing (USDA)
An Ounce of Prevention Keeps the Germs Away (NCID)
Handwashing (FDA)
Stopping the Spread of Germs (CDC)

Handwashing Activities and Info for Kids
Henry the Hand's Kids Resources (Dr. Wm. Sawyer)
– "Just Look at Those Hands" (FDA)
What are Germs (KidsHealth, Nemours)

Why Do I Need to Wash My Hands (KidsHealth)

Wash your hands, avoid the flu.

While this is not the whole story, we all better avoid colds, the flu and other infectious diseases if we wash our hands more frequently and keep them away from mouth, nose and eyes between washing. Yet many people continue to disregard this advice and unnecessarily catch and spread disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that:

"The most important thing that you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands" and when you wash your hands -- with soap and warm water -- that you should wash for 15 to 20 seconds, about the same time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice! (CDC)

"...in addition to colds, some pretty serious diseases -- like hepatitis A, meningitis, and infectious diarrhea -- can easily be prevented if people make a habit of washing their hands." (CDC)

"Studies have shown that human influenza viruses generally can survive on surfaces for between 2 and 8 hours." (CDC)

"Proper hand-washing could eliminate close to half of all cases of foodborne illness." (FDA)

"A study of 305 school children found that youngsters who washed their hands 4 times a day had 24% fewer sick days due to respiratory illness and 51% fewer days due to upset stomach." (FDA)

Results of a new survey show many people still aren’t washing their hands in public places, exposing others to the risk of infection, despite recent outbreaks of infectious diseases. (American Society for Microbiology)

"Women wash their hands more often than men (90% versus 75%)." (ASM)

The activities listed below demonstrate to participants that proper washing removes unseen particles, including disease causing agents, from their hands.

Activities and Experiments

Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum has these additional resources related to handwashing and disease prevention.