Home » Guide to the Wise Use of Antibiotics » Handwashing


Handwashing is the best way to stop the spread of respiratory tract infections.  80% of common infections can be spread by hands.

When to wash your hands:

  • Before meals
  • Before breastfeeding
  • After using the toilet or helping a child use the toilet
  • Before and after changing diapers
  • After blowing your nose or wiping a child’s nose
  • After handling objects shared with others

How to wash hands:

  • Use soap and water.  Washing with water alone does not get rid of germs.
  • Wet your hands.
  • Apply soap.  Do not use antibacterial soap.
  • Rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds (or the time it takes to sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star).
  • Rinse your hands for 10 seconds.
  • Dry your hands with a towel.

What you should do:

  • Expect doctors, dentists, nurses and therapists to wash their hands before they examine you or your child.
  • Make sure soap is available in the washroom of your child’s school and your workplace.
  • Make sure that childcare sites have places for adults and children to wash their hands.
  • Use regular soap.  Plain soap works just as well as antibacterial soap.  Antibacterial soap is not needed because it leads to bacterial resistance.
  • Teach by example.