Francisco Chang, MD FAAP
Healthy habits prevent germs and infectious diseases from spreading. Learn, practice, and teach healthy habits.
Handle & Prepare Food Safely
Food can carry germs. Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces often when preparing any food, especially raw meat. Always wash fruits and vegetables. Cook and keep foods at proper temperatures. Don’t leave food out – refrigerate promptly.
Wash Hands Often
One of the most important healthy habits to prevent the spread of germs is to clean your hands. Our hands can carry germs, so it is important to wash them often, even if they don’t look dirty.
When to Wash Your Hands
Make sure to clean your hands before and after:
- Using the bathroom or changing diapers
- Cooking or serving food
- Treating a cut or wound
- Contact with a sick person
- Putting on and removing protective equipment like a face mask
Clean your hands after these actions:
- Coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
- Touching another person’s hands or touching an animal or pet
- Handling garbage
- Touching frequently touched areas (doorknobs) or contaminated items (dirty laundry or dishes).
How to Wash Hands with Soap and Water
- Wet hands and apply soap.
- Rub hands for at least 20 seconds being sure to scrub the top of the hands, palms, wrists, and between fingers.
- Rinse hands thoroughly of all soap and dirt.
- Dry hands with a clean cloth or paper towel. If in a public place, use the paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door. Then, throw in the trash.
*When helping a child, wash their hands first, and then your own.
How to Clean Hands with Hand Sanitizer
- Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available and if your hands do not look dirty. To be effective, hand sanitizer must have at least 60% alcohol content.
- Apply hand sanitizer to both hands.
- Rub hands covering all surfaces until dry. If your hands dry before 10 seconds you did not use enough. Apply more and repeat.
*Although not as effective as washing one’s hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer, pre-moistened cleansing towelettes with at least 60% alcohol content can be an alternative.
Clean & Disinfect Commonly Used Surfaces
Germs can live on surfaces. Cleaning with soap and water is usually enough. However, you should disinfect your bathroom and kitchen regularly. Disinfect other areas if someone in the house is ill. You can use an EPA certified disinfectant (look for the EPA registration number on the label) or a bleach solution.
Cough and Sneeze into a Tissue or Your Sleeve
If you are sick, the air that comes out of your mouth when you cough or sneeze may contain germs. Someone close by can breathe in your air, or touch a surface contaminated with your germs, and become ill. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your shirt sleeve- not into your hands or into the air. Remember to throw away the tissue and wash your hands. You can wear a face mask when you are sick with a cough or sneezing illness.
Don’t Share Personal Items
Avoid sharing personal items that can’t be disinfected, like toothbrushes and razors, or sharing towels between washes. Needles should never be shared, should only be used once, and then thrown away properly.
Vaccines can prevent many infectious diseases. You should get some vaccinations in childhood, some as an adult, and some for special situations like pregnancy and travel. Make sure you and your family are up-to-date on your vaccinations.
Avoid Touching Wild Animals
You and your pets should avoid touching wild animals which can carry germs that cause infectious diseases. If you are bitten, talk to your doctor. Make sure that your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date.
Stay Home When Sick
When you are sick, stay home and rest. You will get well sooner, and will not spread germs.