May 5th is World Hand Hygiene Day

hand hygiene day

World Hand Hygiene Day

May 5th is World Hand Hygiene Day, hygiene is at the top of most of our lists at present. In the past, we may have taken it for granted like only washing our hands after going to the toilet, before eating or after getting them dirty, but now we do it a lot more often and if we don’t have handwashing facilities to hand, we may use sanitiser. And, now more than ever hand hygiene is seriously important.

What is World Hand Hygiene Day 2020?

This year’s event is dedicated to Nurses and Midwives and is a global event to improve hand hygiene around the world. During the coronavirus pandemic, we have all been reminded of the importance of good personal hygiene, particularly handwashing.

Nurses and midwives play a critical role in providing care to the community, dedicating their lives to caring for others and World Hand Hygiene Day aims to recognise the significant contribution they make to healthcare across the globe.

What can we do?

Although the day is dedicated to Nurses and Midwives, handwashing and hygiene are critical to reducing the risk of spreading the coronavirus infection. So, it is a good opportunity for us to not only celebrate the amazing work carried out by healthcare professionals across the world, but also reflect on our hand hygiene.

Handwashing with basic soap and water has been an important part of personal hygiene for centuries and is even important in religious and cultural habits. However, it’s importance for disease prevention has only been known about for the past 200 years.

Good handwashing practice

Hand washing is effective at protecting us from many infections including flu, food poisoning and even the novel coronavirus. There is a way to wash your hands effectively and it’s like this:

  1. Wet your hands with water first.
  2. Use enough soap to cover your hands.
  3. Rub your hands together.
  4. Place one hand on the back of the other and begin rubbing (your palm should be touching the back of your other hand). Clean in between your fingers and then swap and do the same with the other hand.
  5. Rub your hand together, palm to palm, and clean in between your fingers.
  6. Rub the back of your fingers against your palms.
  7. Rub your thumb with the opposite hand by cupping your hand around the thumb and then swap to rub the other thumb.
  8. Rub the tips of your fingers on one hand on the palm of your other then swap and do the same with the other hand.
  9. Rinse your hands thoroughly with water.
  10. Dry your hands thoroughly with a disposable paper towel.

You should do this for the same length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice or approximately 20 seconds. If you do not have access to handwashing facilities, you should use an alcohol-based hand rub or sanitiser instead. However, handwashing with soap and water is best practice.


May 5th 2020 is the 12th World Hand Hygiene Day, and this year it feels more poignant than ever as the world faces the unprecedented challenge of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s event celebrates Nurses and Midwives who work tirelessly to protect and care for us. It is also a great opportunity to reflect on our hand hygiene and to recap on how to do it correctly.


National Health Service. (2019). How to Wash Your Hands. Available at:

World Health Organisation. (2009). WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care: First Global Patient Safety Challenge Clean Care is Safer Care. Available at:

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