Published on February 08, 2017

Hand Hygiene: How 20 Seconds Can Make A World Of Difference

Resistance is not futile. Wash your hands.

With flu season picking up and respiratory diseases causing widespread disruptions, hand hygiene is more important than ever, said Owensboro Health’s Infection Prevention specialists. Laura Gillim, a clinical program specialist in Infection Prevention and Quality Support, said it’s much easier to wash your hands than to treat an illness.

“Practicing hand hygiene is a simple yet effective way to prevent infections,” Gillim said. “Washing your hands can prevent the spread of germs, including those that are resistant to antibiotics and are becoming difficult – If not impossible – to treat.”

Influenza’s impact is increasing nationally and Kentucky is now one of the states where the virus is listed as “widespread.” That means influenza-like illnesses or laboratory-confirmed influenza are occurring in at least half the regions of Kentucky. For healthy individuals, influenza is debilitating and miserable. For those with certain health conditions, influenza can open the door to deadly infections or be deadly on its own.

Gillim said hand-washing also prevents problems like the common cold, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and viral gastroenteritis (a viral illness that causes nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea).

“These illnesses can all prevented by proper hand hygiene. That’s why it is essential to wash your hands with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and/or changing diapers, and always before eating or handling food,” Gillim said.

Are you washing your hands correctly? It seems like a simple task, but it’s often done incorrectly. Here’s the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guide on how to wash your hands the right way:

  • Wet your hands (the water can be warm or cold).
  • Apply soap and rub your hands together to get a good lather going.
  • Scrub. We mean really scrub. Put some effort into it. Do this for 20 seconds. Hum “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice to keep time. (See the below graphic for areas which need special attention)
  • Rinse thoroughly.
  • Dry your hands with a paper towel. That paper towel can also be used to open a door (if needed).

Note: If you use hand sanitizer, choose one that is at least 60 percent alcohol. Remember that hand sanitizer isn’t effective if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

For more information about hand hygiene, visit

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering and the only hospital in the world to be designated a Signature Sanctuary by Audubon International, Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital, the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprising over 180 providers in 25 locations, a certified medical fitness facility, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center. Owensboro Health has been recognized for outstanding care, safety and clinical excellence by The Joint Commission, U.S. News & World Report and Becker’s Hospital Review. As the largest employer west of Louisville, Owensboro Health has 4,088 employees, and in FY 2015 saw 18,380 inpatient admissions and 823,072 outpatient encounters. A committed community partner, Owensboro Health provided grants of $702,924 in the last year to health, social service, education and arts agencies across the region. For more information, visit