- Germs are everywhere! They can get onto hands and items we touch during daily activities and make you sick. Cleaning hands at key times with soap and water or hand sanitizer is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to those around you.
There are important differences between washing hands with soap and water and cleaning them with hand sanitizer. For example, alcohol-based hand sanitizers don’t kill ALL types of germs, such as a stomach bug called norovirus, some parasites, and Clostridium difficile, which causes severe diarrhea. Hand sanitizers also may not remove harmful chemicals, such as pesticides and heavy metals like lead. Handwashing reduces the amounts of all types of germs, pesticides, and metals on hands. Knowing when to clean your hands and which method to use will give you the best chance of preventing sickness.
Hands are the main pathways of germ transmission during health care. Hand hygiene is therefore the most important measure to avoid the transmission of harmful germs and prevent health care-associated infections. This brochure explains how and when to practice hand hygiene.
- Before and after visiting a friend or a loved one in a hospital or nursing home, unless
- The person is sick with Clostridium difficile (if so, use soap and water to wash hands).
- If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol, and wash with soap and water as soon as you can.
- Clean your hands by rubbing them with an alcohol-based formulation, as the preferred mean for routine hygienic hand antisepsis if hand is not visibly soiled. It is faster, more effective, and better tolerated by your hands than washing with soap and water
DO NOT use hand sanitizer if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy: for example, after gardening, playing outdoors, or after fishing or camping (unless a handwashing station is not available). Wash your hands with soap and water instead.