Personal hygiene - reducing our risk of catching illnesses
Last updated: Wednesday 14 July 2021
Wash your hands with soap and water or use hand sanitiser regularly throughout the day.
Regular hand washing is an effective way to reduce your risk of catching illnesses, including COVID-19.
It is particularly important to wash your hands:
- after coughing, sneezing and blowing your nose
- before you eat or handle food
- after coming into contact with surfaces touched by many others, such as handles, handrails and light switches
- after coming into contact with shared areas such as kitchens and bathrooms
- when you return home
- watch this video to find out the best way to wash your hands
Where possible, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. If you do need to touch your face (for example to put on or take off your face covering), wash or sanitise your hands before and after.
Hands touch many surfaces and can become contaminated with viruses, including COVID-19. You can transfer viruses to your eyes, nose or mouth from your hands if they are contaminated. Then viruses can enter your body and infect you. Washing or sanitising your hands removes viruses and other germs, so you're less likely to become infected if you touch your face. Using soap and water is the most effective way to clean your hands, especially if they are visibly dirty. Use hand sanitiser if there isn't soap and water available.
Coughing and sneezing increases the number of droplets and aerosols released by a person, the distance they travel and the time they stay in the air. A cough or sneeze of an infected person which is not covered will significantly increase the risk of infecting others around them.
These actions will reduce the spread of droplets and aerosols carrying COVID-19 and other viruses, including those that cause coughs and colds:
- Cover your mouth and nose with disposable tissues when you cough or sneeze.
- If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow, not into your hand.
- Dispose of tissues into a rubbish bag and immediately wash your hands.
- Step 4: Protecting ourselves and learning to live with coronavirus
- Read the COVID-19 Response: Summer 2021