One of the most important defences we have against COVID-19 is soap and water. 

That's because the virus is pretty weak when it comes to soap. Washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water – for at least 20 seconds – can destroy its structure and send it down the drain. If you can't get to soap and water, hand sanitiser is your next best option.

Washing well

Effective handwashing means getting into all the hiding spots that our hands have for germs. In your minimum 20 seconds of hand washing, this is the order you should follow:

•    wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold)
•    turn off the tap and apply soap
•    lather the palms of your hands by rubbing them together with the soap
•    lather the backs of your hands
•    interlace your fingers, both ways, to clean in between 
•    give each thumb a lather
•    scratch your palms with your fingers to clean under your nails
•    rinse and dry thoroughly. 

When to wash

All the usual times for hand washing still apply: before and after eating; before and after preparing food; after toileting; before and after changing nappies; after touching an animal; after blowing your nose; and before and after touching any bodily fluids like blood or vomit.
With COVID-19, we need to add a few more. It's also important to wash your hands thoroughly:

•    when you return home after going outside for any reason
•    after collecting the mail or any other delivery.

Coughs and sneezes

It's normal for healthy children to have up to 12 viral illnesses in a year – that means there will always be lots of coughing and sneezing. COVID-19 has reminded us all about the right way to manage coughs and sneezes.
Every time you cough or sneeze it should be into a clean tissue, which you then put into a rubbish bin that has a lid. If you don't have a tissue handy, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hand.

For little kids who haven't got all that coordinated yet, help them with tissues and using elbows. Then everyone needs to go and wash their hands again!

How long is 20 seconds?

Having a song to sing to time your handwashing is very handy. The classic option is Happy Birthday – twice – but there are many more.

For little kids:

•    Row, row, row your boat (twice)
•    Twinkle, twinkle little star (also twice)

For older kids:

•    If You're Happy and You Know It (all the way through)
•    Frere Jacques – for all the kids learning French
•    The alphabet song

For parents:

•    The chorus of Dolly Parton's Jolene
•    The chant from Queen's We Will Rock You (three times) 
•    The chorus from Prince's Raspberry Beret 

If nothing works for you and your kids, try - just type in the song name and the artist and it will create a handwashing poster for you.

Hand sanitiser rules

The American Center for Disease Control (CDC) has clear guidelines about hand sanitiser, which also work for Australia.The CDC recommends that,in the community, an alcohol-based hand sanitiser should contain at least 60 per cent alcohol.

There have been studies that show that sanitisers that have an alcohol concentration between 60 and 95 per cent are more effective at killing germs than ones that have a lower concentration of alcohol or aren't alcohol based at all. 

Lower or no alcohol versions of sanitiser aren't anywhere near as effective at killing germs.