When and How to Wash Your Hands

Washing Your Hands Could Save Your Health!

Whether you are concerned about flu, coronavirus or other types of illness, washing your hands is often recommended as the first step for prevention. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.

When should you wash your hands?

  • Before eating food, as well as before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching garbage


How should you wash your hands?

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 40 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from be­ginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running wa­ter.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

What if you don’t have soap and clean, running water?

If soap and water are not available, use an alco­hol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quick­ly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and might not re­move harmful chemicals. Hand sanitizers are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

Hand washing – Did you know?  

According to the CDC, proper hand washing:

  • Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31%
  • Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%
  • Reduces respiratory illnesses like colds in the general population by 21%
  • Reduces illness and increases productivity by:
    • Spending less time spent at the doctor’s office
    • Spending more time at work or school

Hand sanitizer – Did you know?

  1. To use, apply hand sanitizer to the palm of one hand and rub the product all over the sur­faces of your hands until your hands are dry. When soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sani­tizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  2. Although alco­hol-based hand sanitizers can inactivate many types of microbes very effec­tively when used correct­ly, people may not use a large enough volume of the sanitizer or may wipe it off before it has dried. Furthermore, soap and water are more effective than hand sanitizers at removing or inactivating certain kinds of germs, like Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridi­um difficile.
  3. Note that hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Handwashing with soap and water is rec­ommended in such circum­stances.
  4. Hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chem­icals, like pesticides and heavy metals, from hands. If hands have touched harmful chemi­cals, wash carefully with soap and water (or as di­rected by a poison control center).

hand sanitizer

To view a list of available medical services, patient resources, search for hospitals near your or find a physician who’s right for you, visit CovenantHealth.com or call 865-541-4500 or toll-free at (877) 334-4500.

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