Along with the holidays, the month of December is dedicated to Handwashing Awareness!

According to the CDC, only 31 percent of men and 65 percent of women wash their hands after using a public restroom. Those numbers are alarming, considering viruses—including influenza—are spread through mucous membranes in the eyes, nose, and mouth. And what touches your eyes, nose, and mouth the most? Your hands.

Handwashing awareness month is the perfect time to brush up on germ-killing techniques and try to improve the statistic mentioned above.

The Five-Step Rule

About 1.4 million children under the age of 5 die from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia—the two most deadly afflictions for children worldwide. The CDC calls handwashing a “do-it-yourself vaccine” because it’s one of the most powerful ways to prevent and protect yourself against bacteria. It takes more than just running your hands under water for a few seconds to effectively clean them.

Use NHAM as a time to teach your children the proper way to wash their hands and demonstrate the five steps below.

The five steps to killing germs are as follows:

1. Wet

Run your hands under the faucet until they’re sufficiently wet. Then squirt 1 to 2 pumps of your favorite antibacterial soap into your palm.

2. Lather

Rub the soap all over your hands, fingers, and about two inches up your wrist. The ideal lather-time should be around 20 seconds. An easy way to make sure you’re lathering long enough is to sing “Happy Birthday” twice in your head.

3. Scrub

This step is a key factor in killing germs, as they can survive the first two steps. Scrub the backs of your hands, palms, in between your fingers, and under your nails to ensure total coverage.

4. Rinse

Wash the soap completely off your hands with water. Contrary to popular belief, the temperature of the water has virtually no effect on handwashing.

5. Dry

If you’re drying your hands at home with a towel or cloth, be sure to wash it regularly. When leaving a public restroom, use a paper towel to open the door, so you don’t combat your efforts to keep your hands clean.

The Three Principles

Endorsed by the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Medical Association, the three principles of handwashing are:

  1. Wash your hands when they are dirty, before eating or cooking, and after using the restroom.
  2. Do not cough or sneeze into your hands, rather use your elbow or a tissue to cover your mouth.
  3. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with your hands at all costs.

Public Hot Spots for Germs

When we think about spreading germs a few places immediately come to mind—door handles, public toilets, pens, etc., but we often overlook some of the most bacteria-dense carriers.

Public breeding grounds for germs and bacteria include:

  • Hotel room remote control
  • Gas pump nozzle
  • Exercise equipment
  • Public transportation
  • The ATM
  • Restaurant or cafeteria condiment bottles
  •  Office desktop
  • Doormats

Be sure to thoroughly wash your hands if you come in contact with the hot spots listed above, and don’t be afraid to whip out the antibacterial wipes in public!

As with any medical emergency, if you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of a virus or bacterial infection, the qualified staff at Tulsa ER & Hospital can help. Our doors are always open, and the facility is equipped for any type of medical issue that may arise. For top-level care that you can count on, visit Tulsa ER & Hospital. 

Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Tulsa ER & Hospital and Nutex Health state no content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.


Nutex Health, Inc supports you and your family’s health. You can depend on Tulsa ER & Hospital, or any of our concierge-level, medical facilities to deliver the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.