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How to wash your hands

How to wash your hands

Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and others from illnesses such as food poisoning and flu.

But what's the best handwashing technique?

Washing your hands properly should take about as long as singing "Happy Birthday" twice (around 20 seconds). Use the following steps from the World Health Organization while you hum:

1. Wet your hands with water (warm or cold).

2. Apply enough soap to cover all over your hands.

3. Rub hands palm to palm.

4. Rub the back of your left hand with your right palm with interlaced fingers. Repeat with the other hand.

5. Rub your palms together with fingers interlaced.

6. Rub the backs of your fingers against your palms with fingers interlocked.

7. Clasp your left thumb with your right hand and rub in rotation. Repeat with your left hand and right thumb.

8. Rub the tips of your fingers in the other palm in a circular motion, going backwards and forwards. Repeat with the other hand.

9. Rinse hands with water (warm or cold).

10. Dry thoroughly, ideally with a disposable towel.

 11. Use the disposable towel to turn off the tap.

You can use alcohol-based handrub if you don't have immediate access to soap and water.

How often should hands be washed?

Hands should be washed:

  • after using the toilet
  • after handling raw foods like chicken, meat and vegetables
  • before eating or handling ready to eat food
  • after having contact with animals, including pets

Why is it so important to wash your hands properly?

Washing your hands properly removes dirt, viruses and bacteria to stop them spreading to other people and objects, which can spread illnesses such as food poisoningflu or diarrhoea.

"Hands are easily contaminated with faecal bacteria [poo] when going to the toilet and this can be easily spread on to other things you touch, including food," says Professor Jeremy Hawker, a consultant epidemiologist at Public Health England.

"Unfortunately, not all people consistently wash their hands after going to the toilet or before handling food.

"Washing your hands with soap and water is sufficient to remove dirt, viruses or bacteria and it can reduce the risk of diarrhoea by nearly 50%."

Who is most at risk from poor hand hygiene?

Children are particularly at risk of picking up infections and spreading them to other people.

It's especially important to make sure that hands are washed when you're visiting someone in hospital or other healthcare setting, to help prevent the spread of infection.

Watch this video to see the handwashing technique in action.

Get active with a disability

Get active with a disability

A guide to getting active if you have an impairment or a long-term health condition.

This guide will help you:

Build activity into your day

To improve your health, try to put some time aside to do activities that improve your heart health and your muscle strength.

The Government recommends doing at least 150 minutes of activity a week as well as strength exercises on two or more days a week.

But don't worry about hitting these targets straight away: every little helps. What's more important is choosing an activity you enjoy.

The easiest way to increase your activity levels is to build activity into the things you do every day, like going to work, shopping and seeing friends.

Tips to build activity into your day:

  • walk or ride part of your journey to work or the shops
  • get off a bus or tube stop before your destination
  • if you drive, park further away from your office and walk or ride the rest of the way
  • go for a walk or a ride with your friend rather than meeting for coffee
  • exercise before or after work, or during your lunch break.
  • lots of gardening can provide a good workout
  • exercise in front of the TV
  • try an online video workout

Some charities have their own workouts online, for example the Multiple Sclerosis Society.    

Get more activity tips.

Search activities and events

Accessible gyms
Find an inclusive gym on the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) website.

Event finder
Use the EFDS event finder to find an activity in your area.

Get Inspired
Browse through activities on the BBC's Get Inspired section. 

Get into Paralympic sports
Find a sport based on your impairment and find a club near you using the Parasport website.

Disability sports listings

Most sports organisations actively encourage disabled people to get involved. The list of organisations below is by no means exhaustive. 

Sport-specific organisations

Angling
The British Disabled Angling Association supports disabled people of all ages and abilities to get into fishing in the UK.

Archery
The British Wheelchair Archery Association supports archers with all impairments from grassroots to elite level with expert advice and coaching. 

Athletics
If you're looking to start in athletics, Parallel Success offers great opportunities for disabled athletes.

Badminton
England Badminton Players Association for Disabled aims to get more disabled people into badminton at any standard or level.

Boccia
Boccia England is responsible for all aspects of the sport, from beginner to expert, providing for all levels of participation.

Bowls
Disability Bowls England aims to be the first port of call for anyone with a disability looking to get into bowls.

Cricket
Organisations working to boost participation in cricket include the English Cricket Board, the Cricket Federation for People with Disabilities and the England Cricket Association for the Deaf.

Cycling
Organisations helping disabled people get into cycling include Cycling UK, Hand Cycling UK and Companion Cycling.

Dancing
If you enjoy dancing for fun or to stay active, find a disability dance class near you with the Wheelchair Dance Sport Association.

Football
Find out where you can play disability football near you using the Football Association's Play Football section and the Disability football directory.

Sledge hockey
Find out how to get into sledge hockey with the British Sledge Hockey Association.

Fencing
Look up clubs and find out more about getting into disabled fencing with the British Disabled Fencing Association.

Goalball
Visit  Goalball UK to find out more about the sport and how to get involved.

Golf
Golf organisations supporting and promoting disability golf are listed on England Golf's disability section.

Gymnastics
Find an accessible gymnastics club near you using the British Gymnastics website.

Horse riding
Find a riding group near you using the Riding for the Disabled Association.

Karate
Find a club near you using the English Karate Federation website.

Rowing
Find out how to get into adaptive rowing at British Rowing.

Sailing
Find an accessible sailing venue near you using the Royal Yachting Association website.

Shooting
Look up accessible shooting clubs on the Disabled Shooting Project website.

Snow sports
Find a local ski group, book lessons and find skiing activities near you at Disability Snowsports UK.

Strength and flex
Improve your strength and flexibility with this five-week exercise plan. Not adapted for wheelchair users.

Swimming
Find a swimming pool near you with disability access and local disability swimming clubs at Swimming.org

Table tennis
Table Tennis England works to increase the numbers of disabled people participating in table tennis.

Tennis
Find out about how to take part in tennis if you have a disability with the Tennis Foundation.

Volleyball
Find a sitting volleyball centre near you using the Volleyball England website.

Walking
Several websites provide information about local walking groups for the disabled, such as  Disabled Ramblers and Walking for health.

Wheelchair basketball
Find a club near you and all you need to know about wheelchair basketball with  British Wheelchair Basketball.

Wheelchair rugby
If you want to give wheelchair rugby a try, find your local club on the GB Wheelchair Rugby website.

National bodies

Back Up – supporting people with spinal cord injury

British Amputee & Les Autres Sports Association

British Blind Sport

Cerebral Palsy Sport

Dwarf Sports Association UK

LimbPower – supporting amputees and people with limb impairments to reach their sporting potential

Mencap Sport – supporting people with a learning difficulty

Metro – London-focused resource for blind and partially sighted people

Special Olympics GB – supporting people with learning disabilities

UK Deaf Sport

Transplant Sport UK

UK Sports Association for People with Learning Disability

WheelPower – supporting wheelchair sport

Disability Sports Wales

Scottish Disability Sport

Disability Sports NI

How to store food and leftovers

How to store food and leftovers

Tips on storing food and leftovers to prevent food poisoning, including:

What goes in the fridge?

Some foods need to be kept in the fridge to help slow down germs' growth and keep food fresh and safe for longer.

These are foods marked with a "use by" date and "keep refrigerated" on the label, such as milk, meat and ready meals.

Cool down leftovers as quickly as possible (ideally within two hours), store them in the fridge and eat them within two days.

It is safe to let food cool completely at room temperature before storing it in the fridge.

Avoid putting open tin cans in the fridge, as the food inside may develop a metallic taste.

Follow the manufacturer's instructions or place the contents in a storage container or covered bowl before refrigerating. 

Fridge maintenance

Keep your fridge temperature at 5C or below.

If your fridge has a digital temperature display you may wish to check it against an internal fridge thermometer now and again to make sure it's accurate.

Clean and inspect your fridge regularly to ensure it remains hygienic and in good working order. 

"Use-by" dates

No food lasts forever, how ever well it is stored. Most pre-packed foods carry either a "use-by" or a "best before" date.

  • "Use-by" dates appear on foods that go off quite quickly. It can be dangerous to eat foods past this date.
  • "Best before" dates are for foods with a longer life. They show how long the food will be at its best.

Food can look and smell fine even after its "use-by" date but that doesn't mean it's safe to eat. It could still contain bugs that could make you ill.

Eating food past its "best before" date is not dangerous, but the food may not be good quality.

Freezing food

You can freeze pretty much everything, including:

  • yogurt
  • cheese (except soft cheese as the freezing process affects the texture) 
  • milk
  • meat
  • fish
  • eggs, including boiled eggs
  • bananas: peel and wrap them or place in an air tight container before freezing
  • baked goods
  • rice: read our safety tips
  • bread

Anything with a high water content like strawberries and tomatoes will go squishy but are still fine to cook with.

Place food in an air-tight container or wrap it tightly in freezer bags or similar before placing in the freezer otherwise the cold air will dry it out.  

Storing eggs

Eggs are best stored in the fridge as they are kept at a constant temperature.

Eggs can also be frozen. Two ways to freeze eggs:

  • crack the egg and separate yolks and whites into separate plastic containers or food bags before freezing. This is handy for baking.
  • crack the egg into a plastic tub and beat it before freezing - great for omelettes and scrambled eggs.

You can safely store a boiled egg in the fridge for a couple of days. Boiled eggs can also be frozen.

Storing meat and poultry

It's important to store meat safely in the fridge to stop bacteria from spreading and avoid food poisoning.

  • Store raw meat and poultry in clean, sealed containers on the bottom shelf of the fridge.
  • Follow any storage instructions on the label and don't eat meat after its use-by date.
  • Keep cooked meat separate from raw meat and ready to eat foods in general.

Freezing and defrosting meat and fish

It's safe to freeze meat and fish as long as you:

  • freeze it any time before its use-by date
  • defrost meat and fish thoroughly before cooking – lots of liquid will come out as meat thaws, so stand it in a bowl to stop bacteria in the juice spreading to other things
  • defrost meat or fish in a microwave if you intend to cook straight away, or if not, defrost in the fridge overnight so it doesn't get too warm
  • cook food until it's steaming hot throughout

Make sure meat is properly wrapped in the freezer or it might get freezer burn, which can make it tough and inedible.

Date and label meat in the freezer and eat it within 24 hours of defrosting. 

You can freeze meat for a long time and it will still be safe to eat, but the quality will deteriorate so it's best to eat it within three to six months.

Don't worry if it's frozen for longer – try marinating it before cooking to improve texture or use herbs and spices to add flavour.

Re-freezing meat and fish

Never re-freeze raw meat (including poultry) or fish that has been defrosted.

You can cook frozen meat and fish once defrosted, and then refreeze them.

You can re-freeze cooked meat and fish once, as long as they have been cooled before going into the freezer. If in doubt, don't re-freeze.

Frozen raw foods can be defrosted once and stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours before they need to be cooked or thrown away.

To reduce wastage, divide the meal into portions before freezing and then just defrost what you need.

Using leftovers

Don't throw away leftovers: they could be tomorrow's lunch! Follow these tips to make the most of them:

  • Cool leftovers as quickly as possible, ideally within two hours. 
  • Divide leftovers into individual portions and refrigerate or freeze.
  • Use refrigerated leftovers within two days.
  • When reheating food, make sure it is heated until it reaches a temperature of 70C for two minutes, so that it is steaming hot throughout.
  • Always defrost leftovers completely, either in the fridge or in the microwave.
  • When defrosted, food should be reheated only once, because the more times you cool and reheat food, the higher the risk of food poisoning.
  • Cooked food that has been frozen and removed from the freezer should be reheated and eaten within 24 hours of fully defrosting.
  • Foods stored in the freezer, such as ice cream and frozen desserts, should not be returned to the freezer once they have thawed.
  • For safety and to reduce waste, only take out of the freezer what you intend to use within the next 24 hours.

Re-using bags

With more people re-using single-use plastic carrier bags or using a reusable bag for life, you can help prevent bacteria spreading to ready-to-eat food by:

  • packing raw foods separately from ready-to-eat foods, in separate bags
  • keeping one or two reusable bags just for raw foods only – don't use the same bags for ready-to-eat foods
  • checking your bags for spillages, such as raw meat juices or soil, after every use

If there has been any spillage, soiling or damage, plastic bags for life or single-use plastic carrier bags should ideally be disposed of.

Cotton and fabric-based bags for life can be put in the washing machine.

Stages of puberty: what happens to boys and girls

Stages of puberty: what happens to boys and girls

Puberty is when a child’s body begins to develop and change as they become an adult. Girls develop breasts and start their periods, and boys develop a deeper voice and start to look like men.

The average age for girls to begin puberty is 11, while for boys the average age is 12. But there’s no set timetable, so don’t worry if your child reaches puberty before or after their friends. It’s completely normal for puberty to begin at any point from the ages of 8 to 14. The process takes about four years overall.

Late or early puberty

Children who begin puberty either very early (before the age of 8) or very late (after 14) should see a doctor to rule out an underlying medical condition.

Read more about puberty problems.

This page covers:

First signs of puberty in girls

  • The first sign of puberty in girls is usually that their breasts begin to develop. It’s normal for breast buds to sometimes be very tender or for one breast to start to develop several months before the other one
  • Pubic hair also starts to grow and some girls may notice more hair on their legs and arms.  

Later signs of puberty in girls

After a year or so of puberty beginning, and for the next couple of years:

  • Girls' breasts continue to grow and become fuller.
  • Around two years after beginning puberty, girls usually have their first period. Read more about starting periods.
  • Pubic hair becomes coarser and curlier.
  • Underarm hair begins to grow. Some girls also have hair in other parts of their body, such as their top lip. This is completely normal.
  • Girls start to sweat more.
  • Girls often get acne – a skin condition that shows up as different types of spots including whiteheads, blackheads and pus-filled spots called pustules.
  • Girls have a white vaginal discharge.
  • Girls go through a growth spurt. From the time their periods start, girls grow 5-7.5 cm (2-3 inches) annually over the next year or two, then reach their adult height.
  • Most girls gain weight – and it’s normal for this to happen – as their body shape changes. Girls develop more body fat along their upper arms, thighs and upper back; their hips grow rounder and their waist gets narrower.

After about four years of puberty in girls

  • Breasts becomes adult-like.
  • Pubic hair has spread to the inner thigh.
  • Genitals should now be fully developed.
  • Girls stop growing taller.

First  signs of puberty in boys

  • The first sign of puberty in boys is usually that their testicles get bigger and the scrotum begins to thin and redden.
  • Pubic hair also starts to appear at the base of the penis.

Later signs of puberty in boys

After a year or so of puberty starting, and for the next couple of years:

  • The penis and testicles grow and the scrotum gradually becomes darker. Read more about penis health
  • Pubic hair becomes thicker and curlier.
  • Underarm hair starts to grow.
  • Boys start to sweat more.
  • Breasts can swell slightly temporarily – this is normal and is not the same as "man-boobs".
  • Boys may have "wet dreams" (involuntary ejaculations of semen as they sleep). 
  • Their voice "breaks" and gets permanently deeper. For a while, a boy might find his voice goes very deep one minute and very high the next.
  • Boys often develop acne – a skin condition that shows up as different types of spots, including whiteheads, blackheads and pus-filled spots called pustules. 
  • Boys go through a growth spurt and become taller by an average of 7-8cms, or around 3 inches a year, and more muscular. 

After about four years of puberty in boys

  • Genitals look like an adult’s and pubic hair has spread to the inner thighs.
  • Facial hair begins to grow and boys may start shaving.
  • Boys get taller at a slower rate and stop growing completely at around 16 years of age (but may continue to get more muscular). 
  • Most boys will have reached full adult maturity by 18 years of age. 

Mood changes in puberty

Puberty can be a difficult time for children. They're coping with changes in their body, and possibly acne or body odour as well, at a time when they feel self-conscious.

Puberty can also be an exciting time, as children develop new emotions and feelings. But the "emotional rollercoaster" they’re on can have psychological and emotional effects, such as:

For more information on what to expect and how to handle puberty-related mood changes, read our articles on teen aggression, coping with your teenager and talking to your teen.

Puberty  support for children

If children are worried or confused about any part of puberty, it may help them to talk to a close friend or relative.

Puberty support for parents and carers

  • "Surviving Adolescence   a toolkit for parents" is a leaflet that gives parents and carers clear information on what to expect when children hit adolescence, including why they’re likely to become sulky, suddenly start dieting, have crushes on friends, and crave excitement.
  • The FPA (formerly the Family Planning Association) has a range of online leaflets that give advice on talking to your children about growing up, sex and relationships. 
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