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They're so small you can't even see them. They multiply faster than the clothes that keep piling up on your floor. They're everywhere — they lurk in the water you drink, the food you eat, and the air you breathe. At this very moment they are in your stomach and on your skin. What's more, they've been around forever. Sound like creatures from a horror movie? Nope! They are germs or, more scientifically, microbes. And there is more than one kind of microbe out there. Viruses, bacteria, fungi, and protozoa all qualify.

Some of them can make you really sick if you're not careful. We've got posters for boys [PDF - 154 KB] and girls [PDF - 3 MB] that give you ways to stay ahead of those nasty germs. Click on the board below to learn more.

"The Buzz on Scuzz" or "Lather. Rinse. Repeat." What? When? How? What? Click here to learn about how germs on your hands can make you sick. When? Click to find out when you should wash your hands. How? Click to learn the ins and outs of handwashing.



The Buzz on Scuzz or Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

Not to worry! Most germs/microbes are harmless, and some even help to keep you healthy. But some can make you very sick. Every day you come in contact with hidden germs, pretty much everywhere you go. Some of their favorite hangouts are bathrooms, kitchens, the cafeteria, the gym, and the locker room. And those are just the obvious places. They also hide on pencils (remember when you chewed on it?), remote controls or game controllers (like the one you sneezed on last week), phones, pet cages, computer keyboards, stair railings, and doorknobs — pretty much anything your hands can touch.

Germs can spread when people touch things that are covered with them (like the door handle in a public restroom). These germs get on your hand and spread to other parts of your body when you touch your eyes, ears, or mouth! And they don't stop there — you spread germs when you touch something or someone else. But there is one thing you can do to stop germs in their tracks. WASH YOUR HANDS!

Believe it or not, washing your hands is the single most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick or spreading your germs to others. For other tips, check this out.



The Buzz on Scuzz or Lather. Rinse. Repeat.


Wash Up, Wash Well, and Wash Often

 handwashingIt's not just when they look dirty!

You should wash your hands after:

  • Going to the bathroom
  • Helping change your younger sister's or brother's diapers
  • Blowing or wiping your nose with a tissue
  • Covering your mouth/nose when you cough or sneeze
  • Preparing food
  • Touching burns, cuts, or sores
  • Playing with pets and animals
  • Handling dirty dishes, utensils, or touching cabinet tops where food is prepared
  • Being around someone who is sick
  • Being physically active
  • Taking out the garbage

You should always wash your hands before:

  • Handling food
  • Setting the table
  • Eating
  • Treating a scrape, cut, or wound
  • Tending to someone who is sick
  • Putting in or taking out contact lenses

Wash your hands more often when a family member or friend you spend a lot of time around is sick. This will cut down on your chances of catching whatever nasty germ they have.



The Buzz on Scuzz or Lather. Rinse. Repeat.


handwashingYou can't just rub your dirty hands on your clothes or rinse them with water to get rid of the germs. Here are some facts to help keep you clean!

  • Water by itself is not enough to get rid of all of germs. You've gotta get some soap involved! Why? Your skin naturally produces oils that germs can stick to. Soap helps to break down that oil, which makes it harder for germs to stay on your hands.
  • Just running your hands under water with a little soap doesn't count — give it some oomph! Rubbing your hands together creates friction that helps to loosen and remove the dirt and germs that stick to your hands. Put some muscle into it!
  • Wash your hands for about 20 seconds. Just how long is that? Try singing the chorus to your favorite song while you scrub. Just for good measure, sing it again.
  • You probably don't think much about your fingernails when washing your hands, but you should. Dirt and germs can easily get stuck under there. Use the fingernails of one hand to clean under the nails of the other.
  • Antibacterial "soaps" and gels aren't any better than alcohol-based gels for killing bacteria. If you can't get to soap and water right away, try carrying an alcohol-based gel in your backpack to use in the meantime.
  • Don't just wipe those wet hands on your clothes! Drying hands thoroughly after washing is important. If you have a choice, use a paper towel instead of a cloth to prevent the spread of germs to others who might use the same towel. Toss the paper towel once you're done.
Hand Washing How-to's


  1. Wash your hands for 2 secondsTake the plunge. Wet your hands under warm running water and apply some soap.
  2. Lather up! Rub your hands together to build up lots of soapy bubbles. They'll help scrub dirt and germs away.
  3. Don't forget. Washing your palms isn't enough — make sure you wash hands front and back, get between your fingers, around your wrists, and under your nails for 20 seconds. Sing your favorite tune for 20 seconds to get the timing right.
  4. Rinse well in warm water. A good rinse will get any last stragglers off your hands and down the drain!
  5. Dry your hands completely. Wipe your hands with a paper towel and throw it away after you're done.