Washing hands prevents illnesses and spread of infections to others
Handwashing with soap removes germs from hands. This helps prevent infections because:
- People frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even realizing it. Germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth and make us sick.
- Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them. Germs can multiply in some types of foods or drinks, under certain conditions, and make people sick.
- Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to other objects, like handrails, tabletops, or toys, and then transferred to another person’s hands.
- Removing germs through handwashing, therefore, helps prevent diarrhea and respiratory infections and may even help prevent skin and eye infections.
Teaching people about handwashing helps them and their communities stay healthy. Handwashing education in the community:
- Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 23-40% 2, 3, 6
- Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58% 4
- Reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21% 3, 5
- Reduces absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29-57% 7
Handwashing helps battle the rise in antibiotic resistance
Preventing sickness reduces the number of antibiotics people use and the likelihood that antibiotic resistance will develop. Handwashing can prevent about 30% of diarrhea-related sicknesses and about 20% of respiratory infections (e.g., colds) 2, 5. Antibiotics often are prescribed unnecessarily for these health issues 14. Reducing the number of these infections by washing hands frequently helps prevent the overuse of antibiotics—the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world. Handwashing can also prevent people from getting sick with germs that are already resistant to antibiotics and that can be difficult to treat.
Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention