Los Angeles,
12:43 PM

Wash Your Hands


Health officials are urging the public to wash their hands to avoid getting sick or spreading COVID-19 (coronavirus) to others.

Though it seems so simple, many people don't know how to do it effectively.

"It's so important to frequently wash your hands or use hand sanitizer," said Michael Ben-Aderet, MD, associate director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai. "The latest data shows that this virus spreads through close contact when someone coughs or sneezes on you, or if you touch a surface after someone has coughed or sneezed on it, and you then touch your eyes, nose or mouth."

When washing your hands with soap and water the most important thing is to use enough soap that you get a good amount of suds and to wash your hands for a sufficient amount of time, at least 20 seconds, Ben-Aderet explained.

Lather the backs of your hands, between fingers and under nails. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water, and dry them using a clean towel or air dry them.

Alcohol-based hand rubs are another good option, said Ben-Aderet.

"Basically, any alcohol-based hand rub that has an alcohol content between 60% and 90% is extremely effective at killing the vast majority of bacteria and destroying the vast majority of viruses," he said.

When using hand sanitizer, cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.

Good times to wash your hands:

  • After touching a possibly contaminated surface
  • After interacting with someone
  • Before touching your face
  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using 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

All that hand washing may lead to dry skin. Don't forget to moisturize.

"Cracked skin does increase your vulnerability to infections and can increase your skin's ability to hold onto germs," Ben-Aderet said. "In addition to hand hygiene, always use a moisturizer."