As the COVID-19 global pandemic grips the world with illness and fear, it is crucial now more than ever to practice good personal hygiene and cleanliness. By now, it’s a well-known fact that washing your hands regularly and properly can help to stop the spread of the virus.
Why should you wash your hands?
Even without the novel Coronavirus pandemic, keeping your hands clean is an important part of staying healthy. Despite the generally held belief that colds and flu are spread by sneezing and coughing, studies show that the majority of transmissions come from hand to hand contact and the transferring of germs. A busy, working adult can touch up to thirty objects every minute, including their hair, face and body and there can be up to 5000 germs on your hands at any given moment. Good hand hygiene is the first core action in preventing the spread of infections and diseases. Pneumonia and diarrhea are the leading causes of child deaths, both of which can be prevented by hand washing.
How should you wash your hands?
How you wash your hands is just as important as washing them regularly. The majority of people wash their palms and nothing else. The bacteria count is highest on your dominant hand yet right handed people tend to wash their left hand more thoroughly and vice versa. It is recommended that you use clean running water and soap. Make sure to wash your whole hand, including the back of your hand, between your fingers and around your nails. The majority of germs on the hands are around the fingertips and nails so make sure to wash these areas properly. The recommended washing time is twenty seconds but up to thirty seconds is ideal.
Don’t forget to dry your hands properly as well. One in five people don’t dry their hands at all after washing. Damp hands spread up to a thousand times more germs and bacteria than dry hands because germs thrive in a moist environment. Disposable paper towels are the most sanitary way to dry your hands.
When should you wash your hands?
You should wash your hands a few times throughout the day. The most important times to wash your hands are:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage or changing your dustbin bag
- Before and after inserting or removing contact lenses
- Children should wash their hands after playing outdoors
- After working in the garden
- After shopping and handling trolleys or baskets
- After going to restaurants or bars
- After smoking
Can you use hand sanitizers?
Are hand sanitizers or waterless hand cleansers as effective as using soap and water? Yes and no. They work when they have a high enough alcohol content and when used properly, which most people don’t do. Hand cleansers don’t work when your hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Choose a hand sanitizer that contains at least 70% alcohol. You get up to 95% alcohol and the higher the percentage, the better it works.
To get the most out of your hand sanitizer, make sure you use enough – a dollop about the size of a 50c coin. Rub it all over your hands, not forgetting your fingertips and nails, for about 30 seconds. The friction helps to loosen the germs and microbes on your skin and the alcohol will kill them.
Hand sanitizers can be a very effective tool. A study done in British hospitals showed that health care workers only showed 40% compliance with regular hand washing but 92% compliance with using alcohol based hand cleansers. It’s quick and easy and you can use it anywhere. Most bottles are small and convenient enough to keep around the house and in your handbag, leaving you with no excuse not to practice good hand hygiene.
If we have learnt something from of this pandemic, it is the knowledge that clean hands and proper hand hygiene is crucial to our health. Wash your hands regularly and you can save lives, maybe even your own.