World Hand Hygiene Day, 5 May

World Hand Hygiene Day reminds us of the importance of keeping our hands clean.

World Hand Hygiene Day has been celebrated on 5 May since its creation in 2009 to raise awareness of the importance of hand hygiene in health care.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought global attention to hand cleanliness.  Today we are all more familiar with the need to wash or sanitise our hands to reduce the spread of germs and bacteria – and as a result, prevent illness.

But do we fully understand what all the fuss is about?  Connect Health & Community communications volunteer, Leesa, investigated the issue for us.

Why hands?

Our hands are highly exposed to germs, and our faces, enabling easy transmission of disease and illness if not kept clean.  Every day, our hands are exposed to a range of different environments, including:

  1. The home
  2. Schools
  3. Workplaces
  4. Hospitals
  5. Shopping centres
  6. Public transport

The germs (bacteria, viruses and parasites) in these environments can be transmitted to your hands, your mouth and to other objects or people.

When you should wash your hands?

You should wash your hands before and after the following :

  1. Eating
  2. Handing food
  3. Giving medications to another person
  4. Putting contact lenses in your eyes
  5. Entering hospitals
  6. Going to a doctor or doctor’s surgery
  7. On arrival at work or school

You should you wash your hands after the following:

  1. Going to the toilet     
  2. Coughing or sneezing
  3. Getting visibly soiled
  4. Handing raw meat, poultry and fish or unwashed fruit and vegetables
  5. After smoking
  6. Eating or drinking
  7. Visiting shops and handing shopping trolley, baskets and goods 
  8. Going on public transport
  9. Working in the garden
  10. Touching sores, lacerations or infected areas on yourself or other people
  11. Cleaning eg. wiping table tops, kitchen surfaces, using a mop
  12. Playing or working outside
  13. Playing with your pets.

How do we spread germs?

Having poor hygiene will spread germs. For example:

  • Not washing the board or scissors after cooking with raw chicken will contaminate other food.
  • Touching or carrying objects can pick up microorganisms and transfer them to surfaces.
  • When cleaning things, hands can pick up dust and water borne microorganisms, spreading them in the environment.
  • Shaking hands can exchange germs with other people
  • Coughing or sneezing into your hands can spread cold and flu viruses and other germs that live in your nose, throat and airways.

Unwashed hands can quickly spread germs around a building via:

  • Door and cupboard handles
  • Taps
  • Kettles
  • Telephones
  • Photocopier and printer buttons
  • Keyboard
  • Mouse

How to wash your hands

There are five steps washing your hands as the following:

  1. Wet both hands with clean running water either with warm or cold water. Turn off the tap and apply some soap or hand sanitiser.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with soap or hand sanitiser, taking care to lather the back of your hands, in between your fingers, under your nails and your palms.
  3. Scrub your hands for a least 20 seconds. The general advice to make sure you stay on this step for long enough (try humming the “Happy Birthday” song from the beginning to the end, twice.)
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean running water.
  5. Dry your hands thoroughly, using a clean towel. You can also air dry them.

For more information on how to wash your hands, visit

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