WHY HAND WASHING IS IMPORTANT?
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October 15th is hand washing day, and with the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of this healthy habit cannot be stressed enough. Hand hygiene is crucial when it comes to protecting ourselves and others against infectious diseases. By simply washing your hands with soap and water, you can stop the spread of many harmful microbes to yourself or anyone you come in contact with.
Handwashing is especially critical during the COVID-19 pandemic and is considered crucial to limiting the transmission. It can also reduce infections with disease-causing microbes that cause illnesses such as diarrhea and pneumonia.
Regular hand washing may be a dull task, but if you try to incorporate it into your regular daily routine, it will be worthwhile.
Why is hand washing so important?
Hand washing is important regardless of whether there’s a pandemic or not, however, the pandemic makes it all more important for you to wash your hands. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), washing your hands with soap and water is one of the most effective ways of combating the spread of SARS-CoV-2. The CDC currently recommends that you regularly wash your hands during the pandemic, especially if you’ve been sneezing, coughing, blowing your nose, or out in public.
In addition to COVID-19, the transmission of many infectious diseases caused by bacteria and viruses can be significantly limited by regular handwashing. Conditions such as pneumonia and diarrhea are usually caused by viral or bacterial infections, and they can easily be fatal in high-risk populations, such as young babies and the elderly. Pneumonia and diarrhea are the top infectious causes of death in children aged below 5 years. Regular hand washing can protect many of these children and reduce the mortality rates from such diseases.
Bottom line, good hand hygiene can protect you and others from numerous diseases which may sometimes even be fatal.
How to wash your hands correctly
Handwashing should be performed with both soap and water, and not just water alone. Regular soap antibacterial soap, and the latter may only be superior in healthcare environments. To correctly wash your hands, you should follow these steps:
- After letting the water run, rinse your hands thoroughly under it. Temperature does not play a role in killing germs, so adjust it to a comfortable level.
- Squeeze some soap into one of your hands. This can be any soap depending on your preference.
- Rub your hands together to create a lather, and spread it thoroughly so that it covers your hands completely. Make sure to include your fingernails, the spaces between your fingers, and the sides of your hands.
- Rinse off the soap with water.
- Dry your hands with a clean towel.
- If you’re using a public bathroom, use the paper towel to close off the tap instead of touching it directly with your bare hand.
When should you wash your hands?
Regular hand washing can feel like a laborious and time-consuming task, however, with time, it can grow to become a healthy hygiene habit. You should wash your hands:
- After going out in public: Going out in public means that you’ve probably touched things that other people have also touched, such as doorknobs, elevator switches, money, shopping carts, and others.
- Before, during, and after handling food: Whether you want to eat or cook food, it’s important to wash your hands before you start to avoid transmitting microbes from your hands to the food. If you’re cooking, it’s important to wash your hands each time after you handle raw meat, fish, chicken, or eggs. Washing after cooking and eating is also recommended.
- After contact with bodily secretions: It’s important to wash your hands after using the toilet, changing your baby’s diaper, blowing your nose, sneezing, coughing, and so on.
- Before certain medical activities: Washing your hands before taking your medications, applying or removing your contact lenses, treating someone’s wound or burn, or attending to a sick person.
- After handling your pets: You should wash your hands thoroughly after handling your pets or cleaning the litter box.
Is it okay to use a hand sanitizer instead?
Hand sanitizers are an attractive alternative to handwashing, providing a quicker and on-the-go solution for hand hygiene. Nevertheless, it is important to know that soap and water are still better for regular use, and can remove debris, dirt, and microbes more effectively than hand sanitizers.
Another important issue with hand sanitizers is that their regular use kills helpful bacteria on our skin.
Therefore, if you must use a hand sanitizer, keep the following things in mind:
- Choose an alcohol-based sanitizer, with a minimum of 60% alcohol. You can check the label before buying it to make sure.
- Scrub your hands until the product dries off, after applying the recommended amount of sanitizer. Don’t stop until it has all dried off.
- Keep a hand sanitizer with you in public, it’s useful after touching common surfaces and objects
Some more tips for handwashing
- Consider using a moisturizer or a moisturizing soap if your skin is sensitive and gets damaged by frequent handwashing
- Consider using liquid soap instead of a bar of soap if keeping the latter properly stored is a problem. Bars of soap can harbor some microbes.
- Include your children in your hand washing routines, and try to incorporate fun activities to encourage them to develop this healthy habit.
In the time of the pandemic, hand hygiene is more important than ever. Washing your hands can save you and your loved ones from many illnesses, so make sure that you take the time to keep washing your hands regularly and make it a healthy habit.
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