Wash hands regularly: Your health is in your hands | Western Cape Government


Wash hands regularly: Your health is in your hands

4 December 2018

The simple yet effective act of washing your hands with water and soap is the first step in preventing the spread of disease-causing germs. Regular hand washing plays an important role in disease prevention since 80% of germs are spread from our hands.

According to the National Hand Hygiene Behaviour Change Strategy of 2016 to 2020, handwashing with soap alone shows the greatest reduction in deaths due to diarrhoea (over 40%). It also prevents up to 47% of childhood diarrhoea and 23% of respiratory infections.

Diarrhoea and respiratory illnesses are just some of the diseases you can evade by good handwashing habits. Others include E.coli and viral infections which can lead to fever and fatigue. 

Many diseases and conditions (mostly affecting children) are transmitted through hands and this can be simply prevented if handwashing with soap at critical times is commonly practiced.

Habits are often developed in childhood and children are more susceptible to behaviour change and the uptake of new habits. In order to develop good hand hygiene habits, children should be taught to understand the importance of washing hands with soap properly and also encouraged to spread the handwashing message within their households and to their friends. Parents and caregivers must demonstrate good hygienic practises by always washing hands before preparing a meal, eating or helping children or the elderly to food. Modelling this behaviour and encouraging others to do the same, can have a major impact on the children’s health and well-being.

Besides washing your hands before preparing a meal or eating, you should also wash your hands:

  • before and after caring for injuries
  • before and after changing diapers
  • after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • after going to the toilette
  • after touching garbage
  • after interacting with pets or cleaning up after them

It is vital to wash your hands in between activities. In other words, if you have changed baby’s nappy and are now going to feed, you must wash your hands first. Even if your home does not have running water, keep a plastic cool drink bottle filled with water handy, so that you can rinse your hands with clean water after washing them.

Ways that the disease-causing germs can be prevented:

  •  improving access to clean water and safe sanitation
  •  promoting education about hygiene
  • improving weaning practices
  • immunising all children, especially against measles
  • keeping food and water clean
  • washing hands with soap (the baby's hands too) before touching food
  • practicing the sanitary disposal of stools.


Media Enquiries: 

Sithembiso Magubane
Principal Communications Officer: Khayelitsha & Eastern Substructure
Western Cape Government: Health
Tel: 021 360 4702
E-mail: sithembiso.magubane@westerncape.gov.za