Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. It is best to wash your hands with soap and clean running water for 20 seconds. However, if soap and clean water are not available, use an alcohol-based product to clean your hands. Alcohol-based hand rubs are fast acting and significantly reduce the number of germs on skin.

When washing hands with soap and water:

  • Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available.
  • Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
  • Continue rubbing hands for 20 seconds. Need a timer? Imagine singing “Happy Birthday” twice.
  • Rinse hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer.
  • Use your paper towel to turn off the faucet.

When using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:

  • Apply product to the palm of one hand.
  • Rub hands together.
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of hands and fingers until hands are dry.

When you should wash your hands:

  • Before preparing or eating food.
  • After going to the bathroom.
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has gone to the bathroom.
  • Before and after tending to someone who is sick.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • After handling an animal or animal waste.
  • After handling garbage.
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound.

Cover your cough

Many respiratory illnesses—including serious ones such as influenza and pertussis (whooping cough)—are spread by coughing or sneezing. Some respiratory illnesses can also spread by direct contact—for example, after someone’s hands become contaminated by droplets from coughing or sneezing.

These illnesses spread most easily in crowded places or households where people are in close contact. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Put your used tissue in the waste basket. Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not into your hands.

Disinfection guidelines

Thoroughly clean and disinfect contaminated surfaces immediately after an episode of illness or contamination by using a fresh solution.

  • Solid surfaces not contaminated by germs: Half a cup of chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
  • Solid surfaces contaminated by germs: Two cups of chlorine bleach per gallon of water.
  • Non-solid surfaces (carpet, fabric or any other material that could be damaged by chlorine bleach) contaminated by germs: Must be steam/water treated to 140ºF (60ºC) or above.

Things to remember:

  • Wear non-latex disposable gloves when using strong sanitizing solutions.
  • Disinfection solution must be changed every 30 minutes with a new cloth towel.
  • Any contamination of the sanitizing solution will reduce chlorine effectiveness.
  • Chlorine percentages in commercially available bleaches may range from 3.5 percent to 12.5 percent
  • Bleach loses its concentration level of chlorine the longer it has been opened

Calculations for the above concentrations:

  • 3 teaspoons = 1 Tablespoon
  • 16 Tablespoons = 1 cup
  • 48 teaspoons = 1 cup
  • 1 teaspoon bleach in 1 gallon of water = 50 ppm chlorine
  • 1 Tablespoon bleach in 1 gallon of water = 150 ppm chlorine
  • 48 teaspoons (1 cup) bleach per gallon water = 2400 ppm chlorine
  • 24 teaspoon (1/2 cup) bleach per gallon water = 1200 ppm chlorine
  • 10 percent chlorine solution for blood-borne pathogen cleanup is 3840 ppm, 2 cups would be 4800 ppm

What to do if you get sick

Help yourself get better and avoid spreading your illness to others by:

  • Getting ample amounts of rest.
  • Staying home from work or school.
  • Drinking extra liquids—at least one glass of water or juice every waking hour.
  • Not preparing food while you have symptoms and for three days after recovering.