Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle: How and when to handwash

Keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways of preventing sickness. It helps get rid of germs you pick up from others, from the surfaces you touch and animals you come in contact with.

At-a-Glance: When and How

Considering when and how to wash is especially important during pregnancy. It’s important to keep yourself healthy and it’s a good preparation for handling your new baby a few months down the road!

When to Wash your Hands

  • Before eating
  • Before, during and after handling or preparing food
  • Before dressing a wound, giving medicine, or inserting contact lenses
  • Before picking up an infant
  • Before and after changing a diaper
  • After contact with blood or body fluids (like vomit, nasal secretions, or saliva)
  • After you use the bathroom
  • After handling animals or their toys, leashes, or waste
  • After touching something that could be contaminated (such as a waste bin, cleaning cloth, drain, or soil)
  • More often when someone in your home is sick
  • Whenever your hands look dirty

How to Wash your Hands

  • Wet your hands and apply liquid, bar or powder soap
  • Rub hands together vigorously to make a lather, and scrub all surfaces, including under and around the nails
  • Continue for 20 seconds! It takes that long for the soap and scrubbing action to dislodge and remove stubborn germs. Need a timer? Imagine singing “Happy Birthday” all the way through — twice!
  • Rinse hands well under running water
  • Dry your hands using a paper towel or air-dryer
  • If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the tap

Additional Handwashing Tips

  • Consider using hand lotion to prevent chapped hands — choose a mild, fragrance-free formula if pregnancy has made your skin sensitive. If using lotions, use liquids or tubes that can be “squirted” so that your hands don’t have direct contact with the lotion spout. Direct contact with the spout could contaminate the lotion inside the container.
  • When assisting a child with handwashing, hold the baby (or if it’s a toddler, have him or her stand on a safety step) so that his/her hands can hang freely under the running water.

When Soap and Water Aren’t Available

Hand hygiene is especially important as you work to stay healthy through your pregnancy.

Under normal circumstances, if soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitisers are acceptable alternatives for the prevention of spreading germs. Read the label to make sure it is alcohol-based (for example, it might say “ethyl alcohol,” “ethanol,” “isopropanol,” or another suffix ending in “anol”) and that the concentration of that alcohol is between 60 and 95 percent.

Remember: These products are not substitutes for good handwashing. If hands are dirty, wash them thoroughly before using a hand sanitiser.