News story

We are counting on you to wash your hands

Handwashing is one of the simplest ways of preventing illnesses such as food poisoning and flu.

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On Global Handwashing Day (15 October, 2015) Public Health England (PHE) want to remind people how washing hands with soap and water can remove bugs to protect both their health and that of others.

The purpose of handwashing is to remove dirt, viruses and bacteria from hands to stop these being spread to the environment and from person to person, which can lead to illness. Hands should be washed:

  • after using the toilet
  • after handling raw foods like chicken, meat and vegetables
  • before eating or handling ready to eat food
  • after handling animals, including pets

Professor Jeremy Hawker, consultant epidemiologist at PHE said:

We want to remind people how effective handwashing is in preventing diseases. Hands are easily contaminated with faecal bacteria when going to the toilet and this can be easily spread on to other things you touch, including food, but unfortunately not all people consistently wash their hands after going to the toilet or before handling food.

Washing your hands with soap and water is sufficient to remove dirt, viruses or bacteria and it can reduce the risk of diarrhoea by nearly 50% so we can see that these simple measures are a great way to stop people becoming unwell.

Parents also have a very important role to play in ensuring their children are given good advice at home. Children are particularly at risk of picking up infections and spreading them to other people.

It is very important and we strongly recommend ensuring you wash your hands in order to help prevent the spread of infection when visiting a friend or relative in hospitals or other healthcare environments.

Dr Richard Pebody, respiratory expert at PHE said:

All influenza viruses are spread from person to person in respiratory droplets propelled by coughs and sneezes from an infected person to the mouth or nose of another person, but they are also spread from touching objects contaminated with the flu virus.

One of the important things you and your child can do to prevent the spread of the flu (influenza) virus is wash your hands with soap and water. Good hand hygiene is important and effective in preventing the spread of the flu virus.

Published 15 October 2015