Why is hand washing important?
Clean hands are your best protection from illness. Regular hand washing prevents the spread of germs; specifically those germs that cause most respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses.
Germs accumulate on your hands through the course of daily life. When you prepare food, change a diaper, take out the trash or touch a contaminated object such as a doorknob, elevator button or counter, you come into contact with germs. Washing germs off your hands helps prevent them from spreading further.
Germs from unwashed hands spread when:
- You touch your face – Germs can enter your body through your eyes, nose or mouth and make you sick.
- You prepare food – Preparing food with unwashed hands transfers germs to food and drink where, under the right conditions, they can multiply and make people sick.
- You touch an object – Germs spread from unwashed hands to door handles, railings, countertops, toys and mobile phones when you touch them.
When to wash your hands?
You should wash your hands any time you touch an object or surface that might be contaminated, especially:
- After going to the bathroom
- Before eating
- Before, during and after preparing food
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After changing a diaper or assisting young children in the bathroom
- After taking out the trash
- Before and after taking care of someone who is sick
- After touching an animal or its food, or cleaning up after them
- Before inserting or removing contact lenses
- Whenever your hands are visibly soiled
What is the right way to wash my hands?
Think you know how to wash your hands? Think again. A study by Michigan State University found that nearly 95 percent of people don’t wash their hands long enough to get rid of germs. Here’s a quick rundown how to do it right:
- Wash your hands with soap and running water – Soap is proven to be more effective than water alone in lifting microbes and dirt from the skin. Also, running water is better than a basin of standing water where hands can become re-contaminated.
- Lather your hands – Don’t forget the back of your hands, nails and between your fingers. Scrub for at least 20 seconds. Scrubbing causes friction, which helps lift germs and dirt off your hands.
- Rinse with clean running water – Rinsing with running water lifts the soap and germs away resulting in cleaner hands that aren't irritated by dried soap.
- Dry your hands thoroughly – Germs are transferred more easily to wet hands so make sure your hands are completely dry.
What about hand sanitizers?
Hand sanitizers are a good alternative to hand washing if your hands aren't visibly dirty or greasy according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. You should use hand sanitizers that are at least 60 percent alcohol. Non-alcohol based sanitizers don’t work equally well for all kinds of germs, are more likely to irritate the skin and actually prevent the growth of germs as opposed to killing them. Even alcohol-based hand sanitizers don’t eliminate all the germs on your hands. This is mostly due to the fact the people continue to use them ineffectively, either not using enough product to be effective or wiping it off before it dries.
How to use hand sanitizer
- Apply a palmful of sanitizer in your cupped hand.
- Rub hands palm to palm first then rub all over your hands, be sure not to forget between your fingers, your thumb, the backs of your hands and your nails.
- Continue rubbing until your hands are completely dry.