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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote, and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county, and community efforts.

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Washing Your Hands Saves Lives

May 15, 2019

Did you know one of the most effective ways to keep you and your family healthy is also the simplest?

We’re talking about good handwashing.

What your mother said is true: If you don’t wash your hands, you’re going to get sick. You can get the common cold, yes, but the risks of skipping this important health habit are much more far-reaching and can be severe.

Thorough Handwashing Can Help Prevent Disease

Think about how many things you touch throughout the day that are also touched by other people. Then, when you touch your nose or mouth, you pick up germs and infections left there by someone who neglected to wash their hands. Also, if you prepare food with unwashed hands you pass along bacteria that can make people sick by eating the food you handled.

Practicing good handwashing techniques is one of the easiest and most effective ways to avoid getting sick and spreading germs; especially those germs that cause most respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses. It can also prevent sicknesses like most types of infectious diarrhea, hepatitis A and meningitis.

When to Wash

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating 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 handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Also, wash your hands when they are visibly dirty.

How to Wash

Follow these five simple steps to keep your hands clean.

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water, either 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 20 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.

Learn more about when and how to wash your hands with our handwashing video.

For more information, visit CDC’s Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives website.


About the Florida Department of Health

The department, nationally accredited by the Public Health Accreditation Board, works to protect, promote and improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county and community efforts.

Follow us on Twitter at @HealthyFla and on Facebook. For more information about the Florida Department of Health please visit


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