The Power to Stop Infection Is in Everyone’s Hands
Everyone has germs on their body. Some of these germs help keep us healthy, while some make us
sick. When we have contact with people, animals, and objects, we pick up some germs and leave some
germs. Sometimes we pick up germs that make us sick. Sometimes we leave germs that make others
sick, even though these germs didn’t make us sick.
While germs are spread by coughing and sneezing, most of the time they are spread by hand contact.
The best way to stop the spread of germs is to clean our hands often. You can clean your hands by
washing them with soap and water or using an alcohol hand rub. When you wash your hands with soap
and water, the rubbing of your hands loosens many of the germs and the water rinses them away.
When you use an alcohol hand rub, the alcohol kills many of the germs on your hands. Simple hand
cleaning helps prevent the flu, common colds, and other infections.
The providers and staff of UW Health are dedicated to keeping you safe while you are here. They
know they should wash their hands or use alcohol hand rub often while they provide care for you, but
there may be times when they forget. If you do not see your caregivers clean their hands when entering
your room, please ask them to do so. It only takes a few words like these to support this healthy habit:
ξ “Excuse me; did you clean your hands?”
ξ “I saw that you cleaned your hands, thank you!”
It is also important for family members and visitors to wash their hands when they visit you. They
should wash their hands when they enter your room and leave your room.
Keep in mind that objects such as doorknobs, keyboards, elevator buttons, and phones may carry germs
that can make us sick. Since it is hard to avoid these objects, it is vital to clean our hands often. If you
must stay in bed, please ask your caregiver for soap and water or alcohol hand rub to clean your hands.
How to Wash Your Hands the Right Way
Have a dry cloth towel near you before you start. Avoid using damp towels due to germs.
Wet your hands with water.
Put soap on your hands. Use liquid soap if you have it. Liquid soaps are better than bar soaps
because germs can live on bar soap. If you use bar soap, put the bar on a rack between uses.
Rub your hands together for at least 15 seconds. You may say the ABCs or sing “Row, Row, Row
Your Boat” to make sure you’ve washed long enough.
Clean all parts of your hands, fingers, thumbs, nails, and wrists.
Rinse your hands well to remove soap.
Dry your hands gently with soft paper towels or a dry cloth towel.
Use a towel or your elbow to turn off the faucet.
When to Wash Your Hands
When your hands are dirty
Before you fix or eat food
Before and after treating a cut or wound
Before putting in or taking out contact lenses
After touching raw meats like chicken or beef
After using the restroom
After contact with blood, urine, stool, vomit
After changing baby or adult diapers
After touching animals and pets
After touching garbage
How to Use Alcohol Hand Rubs
Put the alcohol hand rub in the palm of one hand.
Rub your hands together. Clean all parts of your hands, fingers, thumbs, nails, and wrists.
Rub your hands until they are dry. It should take 25-30 seconds to dry your hands.
When to Use Alcohol Hand Rubs
Anytime you are cleaning your hands when they don’t look dirty
Before and after you have contact with someone who is sick
After shaking or holding hands
After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
Keeping Hands Healthy
Skin protects our bodies from chemicals and germs. To do this well, our skin must be healthy. Healthy
skin is skin that isn’t too dry and doesn’t have cuts, scrapes, cracks, or rashes.
Causes of Dry Skin include:
Low humidity or dry air
Being over 30 years old
Washing hands often
To Keep Your Skin Healthy:
Wash your hands with warm water, not hot.
Rinse your hands well. Soap dries skin
Pat your skin dry. Don’t rub it.
Use lotions often. Putting lotion on skin
when it is damp is helpful.
Wear gloves and clothing to keep you warm
when you are cold.
Wear gloves to protect your skin when you
do things like cleaning and working in the
Thousands of germs can live under and around fingernails. Be sure to clean areas under fingernails.
Fresh nail polish does not result in more germs, but chipped nail polish may carry germs. Fake nails
often have more germs under and around them than real nails do.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you have any
questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This is not medical
advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each person’s health needs are
different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using this information. If you have an
emergency, please call 911. Copyright ©1/2016. University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. All rights
reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#5236