Hand washing is pretty simple, right? Some soap and water and you’re done.
It turns out though, it’s a much bigger deal than that. So big a deal, in fact, that the World Health Organization has its own Hand Hygiene Improvement Strategy, and dozens of guides and tutorials on handwashing tips to improve hand hygiene around the world.
But why is it such a big deal?
Thousands of people die from poor hand hygiene each day
According to the World Health Organization, thousands of people around the world die every day from infections acquired while receiving healthcare. That’s right, it turns out the disadvantages of poor hygiene and poor hand sanitation are rampant not only in domestic households but throughout the medical industry as well. It’s so crucial, that virtual hand hygiene apps displaying the benefits of hand hygiene have been launched.
Hands are one of the main pathways for germ transmission
Germs that are commonly transferred through hands include salmonella, E. coli, and norovirus, which causes diarrhoea. Others include germs that cause respiratory infections, including hand-foot-mouth disease. Unfortunately, these can be transmitted directly or indirectly; through improper food handling.
The good news is that proper hand hygiene can put a stop to the transmission of most germs. Hand washing tips and hand sanitation awareness in communities has been shown to reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhoea by 23 – 40%, respiratory illnesses by 16 – 21%, and absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illnesses in school children by 29 – 57%.
Most people don’t know how to wash their hands
Does hand soap kill germs? It turns out most people don’t wash their hands properly. A study conducted at Cardiff Metropolitan University found that 70% of people did not wash their hands properly before preparing food, 90% failed to wash and dry their hands properly after handling raw chicken, and 47% failed to use soap during one or more hand washing attempts.
Don’t worry too much though, there are easy, simple steps that you can take to make sure you’re in the clear.
1. Wash your hands right
Does handwashing kill germs? The easiest tip to keep in mind is that it should take 40 – 60 seconds to wash your hands. This may sound like a lot, but it’s quite easy to get used to once you’ve done it a few times to get the benefits of good hand hygiene.
You also want to wash your hands thoroughly. This short video by the World Health Organization includes step-by-step instructions and beneficial hand washing tips.
While you’re at it, avoid touching any contaminated surfaces in the toilet, and make sure you close the tap with a paper towel.
3. Dry them well
Bacteria thrive in wet environments, so hand drying is an important step in your handwashing routine. Towels remove pathogens through friction but can become home to contaminants once they’ve absorbed enough moisture. This means it’s important to always use clean, dry towels, or sterilized tissues to avoid the hassle.
3. Use alcohol-based rubs when hands are not visibly dirty
Does a hand sanitizer kill germs? Just because you don’t see any dirt doesn’t mean your hands are germ-free. When this is the case, it’s usually best to apply an alcohol-based rub for 20 – 30 seconds and you’re good to go. The best way to do it follows the same steps like hand washing, but The World Health Organization has another dedicated short video that shows exactly how.
Does it matter which soap you use?
In case you are wondering whether to use regular or antibacterial soap, the short answer is that it doesn’t make a difference. Regular soap removes germs mechanically, while antibacterial soap kills certain bacteria and prevents their growth, but many studies have shown that there are no significant differences between the two. Some suggest that antibacterial soap can be harmful in the long run, so you’re better off hassle-free with your favourite soap brand. But soap can dry out the skin, so make sure you apply lotion to your hands as often as possible.
Now that you’re all set, hand hygiene should be a breeze. If some time goes by and you’re still finding it difficult to stick with the new habit, take a second to imagine the disadvantages of poor hygiene; 10 million bacteria on your hands, doubling over time, and we’re sure that’ll get you on the right track. Happy washing!