It’s National Handwashing Week and time to call attention to one of the most important things you can do to prevent the spread of disease and illness.
While hand washing may seem like one of the most basic tasks we learn from an early age, the fact of the matter is that none of us do it nearly enough.
Hand washing is a powerful tool to protect your own health and that of your loved ones. Doing it properly and frequently can keep us all healthier. It’s a simple tool with highly beneficial results.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Germs can get onto hands if people touch any object that has germs on it because someone coughed or sneezed on it or was touched by some other contaminated object. When these germs get onto hands and are not washed off, they can be passed from person to person and make people sick.”
Here is an example of how many germs can be passed along from one person to another on unwashed hands:
If someone goes to the bathroom and does not wash their hands, a single gram of that human matter – about the weight of a paper clip – can contain one trillion germs. Add that to all the other surfaces a person comes into contact with on any given day, and it’s easy to imagine the vast number of germs that can be on unwashed hands. Not only are colds, germs, disease and illness transmitted between people, but we transmit them to ourselves as we touch our faces, nose, mouth and eyes. However, if we each wash our hands properly, these germs are washed off and are not transmitted.
In fact, the CDC says:
- Hand washing can prevent about 30% of diarrhea-related sickness
- Hand washing can prevent about 20% of respiratory infections like colds
Here is how to properly wash your hands
If your hands are not visibly dirty, using hand sanitizer is an effective way to clean the hands. Make sure it has 60 percent alcohol content. When using hand sanitizer, apply the product to the palm of one hand (read the label to learn the correct amount) and rub the product all over the surfaces of your hands until your hands are dry.
Using soap and water is highly effective in washing germs off the hands, if they are washed properly. Here is the handwashing technique recommended by the CDC:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
When should you wash your hands?
Common sense says you should wash your hands after touching dirty surfaces, when coming back into the house from being outdoors, running errands etc. You should also wash your hands in the following circumstances:
- 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
It’s great that something as simple as washing one’s hands properly can prevent the spread of disease and illness. The trick is increasing the frequency with which we all wash our hands. National Handwashing Week is a great time to make proper handwashing a lifelong habit.
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