One of the most effective and easiest ways to prevent the spread of disease is to wash your hands. As we go throughout the day (touching objects, people, animals and especially money), we accumulate germs on our hands. Then, we touch our eyes, mouths, and noses, without even realizing it, letting bacteria into our bodies. That’s why frequent hand washing is so necessary.
How To Wash Your Hands Properly
It may seem like common sense, but most of us don’t wash our hands as thoroughly as we should. Here’s the proper hand washing technique:
- Wet your hands with warm water and use a nickel- to quarter-sized amount of liquid soap.
- Wash your hands for at least 15 seconds. (About the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”).
- Scrub all the way up to your wrist.
- Don’t forget to clean between your fingers, around the nail bed, and under your nails.
- Rinse your hands thoroughly under running water.
- Use a paper towel to dry your hands, if possible.
- Avoid touching the faucet by using your paper towel or elbow to turn it off.
When To Wash Your Hands
Often! At a minimum, you should wash your hands before and after preparing food (especially raw meat); before eating; and after using the bathroom, sneezing, coughing, blowing your nose or touching contaminated surfaces — like handrails, doorknobs, and counters.
Washing Your Hands Works
Hand washing may seem simple, but it’s a powerful deterrent to the spread of disease. Teaching people about proper hand washing technique has been found to:
- Reduce occurrences of diarrhea in the general population by 31%
- Reduce diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%
- Reduce colds and respiratory infections in the general population by 16 – 21%
Hand Sanitizer vs. Hand Washing
It’s a common misconception that hand sanitizer directly causes resistance to antibiotics. Yes, alcohol-based hand sanitizers kill almost all the bacteria on your hands — good and bad but, anti-bacterial hand sanitizer kills germs more quickly and differently from antibiotics, and the good germs quickly return. That’s because the harmful bacteria exist on the surface of the skin, and the good germs live underneath.
The truth behind this myth is that NOT washing your hands (or NOT using hand sanitizer) contributes to the rise of “superbugs.” Because hand washing and sanitizing are so effective at preventing disease, doing so reduces the amount of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions.
Stay clean out there!