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Home Topics Infectious Diseases Infections A-Z Handwashing


child with washed hands

Handwashing is one of the most important ways of controlling the spread of infections, especially those that cause diarrhoea and vomiting, and respiratory disease. The recommended method is the use of liquid soap, water, and paper towels.

Always wash hands after using the toilet, before eating or handling food, and after handling animals. Cover all cuts and abrasions with waterproof dressings.

Washing hands frequently with soap and water, especially after coughing and sneezing will help reduce the risk from viruses.

The handwashing guidance sheet shows the recommended technique. (Taken from: Ayliffe GAJ et al. Control of hospital infection; a practical handbook. 3rd ed. Chapman and Hall, London, 1992.)

handwashing guidance sheet (PDF, 295 KB)

What's new

  • UK Schools Hand Hygiene Challenge 2012: We have teamed up with School Councils, UK to set a nationwide Hand Hygiene Challenge.The e-Bug national hand hygiene day will be held on Global Handwashing Day, 15 October 2012. Guinness World Records have recognised the hand hygiene challenge as a legitimate Record Breaking attempt.
    UK Schools Hand Hygiene Challenge 2012 [external link]
  • 4 May 2012: The HPA contributed to an evaluation of the national cleanyourhands campaign which was rolled out to all 187 NHS Trusts with instructions to provide bed-side alcohol handrub, posters encouraging healthcare workers to clean their hands and a range of patient-empowering materials.
    The research shows that the increased procurement of soap was independently linked with reduced C. difficile infection throughout the study and increased procurement of alcohol hand rub was independently associated with reduced MRSA infection. These strong and independent associations remained after taking account of all other interventions.
    BMJ paper reports on national Cleanyourhands campaign [external link]
    UCL report reduced infections following national handwashing campaign [external link]
  • Handwashing in primary schools
    As young children are particularly at risk of catching and spreading gastro-intestinal and respiratory infection so the Agency has developed a resource pack to teach handwashing in primary schools, using an animated character called Max. This pack, which focuses on Key Stage 1 pupils, was developed in discussion with teachers, pupils and school nurses.
    Added/updated: 4 May 2012

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