Good Health and Clear Vision Begins with Soap and Water

Let’s give a round of applause for Henry the Hand! Henry is the mascot for National Handwashing Awareness Week, taking place December 4-10. This annual observance reminds us that those simple rules we learned as children are just as necessary and important today.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that handwashing is the single most effective way to prevent the transmission of infectious diseases such as influenza, the common cold, RSV, bronchitis, strep throat, and pneumonia. Certain communicable diseases specifically target the eyes and can affect vision such as bacterial and viral conjunctivitis (pink eye). Millions of Americans contract infectious disease each year, and most cases could be avoided by clean running water and soap.

Although most of us acknowledge that handwashing is important, we are just not washing our hands often enough or effectively enough. Washing hands after the restroom or before preparing a meal is a good start, but most people do not wash their hands long enough to kill bacteria and germs (Source: Centers for Disease Control). The Centers for Disease Control provides these guidelines for proper handwashing:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

It is equally important to know when to wash your hands and be aware of habits that put you in contact with bacteria and viruses. One goal of National Handwashing Week is to teach the 4 Principles of Hand Awareness to prevent respiratory diseases and eye disease:

  • Wash your hands when they are dirty or before eating.
  • Do not cough into your hands.
  • Do not sneeze into your hands.
  • Do not put your fingers in your eyes, nose or mouth.

Make it a goal to stay well and have healthy eyesight all winter long. Following the 4 Principles of Hand Awareness and washing your hands thoroughly will help you prevent communicable disease and eye infection. When soap and water are not available, you can clean your hands using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. To learn more about National Handwashing Awareness Week and special resources from Henry the Hand, go to

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