Fight Germs With Handwashing

— Written By Joanna Rogers and last updated by
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Handwashing is a key essential in protecting yourself and others from the spread of germs. In the Youth Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), we teach our participants about the importance of handwashing and when we need to wash our hands. With five easy steps, the participants learn fun and helpful tips to help them remember how to wash their hands.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related sicknesses and 1 in 5 respiratory infections such as cold and flu. In every EFNEP grade-level curriculum, we talk about germs and how they are related to our health and what ways can we help prevent them from spreading. I like to teach the “Give-Me-Five” method. It’s five simple words you can remember when washing your hands – wet, soap, scrub, rinse, and dry. Here are the steps in more detail:

  1. Wet: Give your hands a good rinse.
  2. Soap: Make sure you have enough for a good clean.
  3. Scrub: For 20 seconds, front, back, sides, in-between your fingers, and under your nails.
  4. Rinse: Make sure you have washed all the soap off your hands.
  5. Dry: With a paper towel, towel, or air dryer.

Make handwashing fun! You can sing the alphabet, sing happy birthday twice, and I like to tell students to sing a part of your favorite song for 20 seconds. Knowing when to wash your hands is also important – always wash your hands before and after handling food, when you cough or sneeze in your hand, and when you come in from playing outside.

Most germs spread from our hands. Think about all the surfaces your hands touch in a day. Those surfaces contain germs that cannot be seen without a microscope. Use a disinfectant cleaner to clean surfaces that you come in contact with daily. Hand sanitizer can be used for when you’re on the go. The CDC recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers with greater than 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol. Allow hand sanitizer to dry before touching any objects. Handwashing is now the topic of everyone’s discussion as we face the challenges of COVID-19. Remember to only trust accredited sites when receiving any type of information on COVID-19 and all other health-related topics.

For more information on handwashing, contact Joanna Rogers, Youth Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program Assistant, by email at joanna_rogers@ncsu.edu, or visit our website.