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Handwashing Protocol

Handwashing versus Hand Sanitizers in Schools

We are surrounded by germs at all times. They can get onto hands and items we touch every day in the school setting. Cleaning hands at key times with soap and water is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick.

Hand Sanitizers can be used only if soap/water is not available and only for certain situations since most alcohol-based hand sanitizers don’t kill ALL types of germs.  For example, there are many types of illnesses such as the 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 amount of all types of germs, pesticides, and metals on hands.  Also hand sanitizers are not effective for killing food allergens so handwashing is advised after any eating during the school day and whenever possible. 

 This is why hand sanitizers are not suggested for use after kids use the restroom. Children should always wash their hands with soap and water after using the restroom. Handwashing reduces the amount 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.



When should you wash your hands?

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food and after food consumption when there is a known life threatening allergies
  • 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 touching garbage

How should you wash your hands?

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (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.

What should you do if you don’t have soap and clean, running water?

Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them in most situations. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and might not remove harmful chemicals.
How do you use hand sanitizers?
  • Apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount).
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.
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