Handwashing the right way

December 2020

The first full week of December is National Handwashing Awareness Week. According to the CDC, handwashing is one of the best ways to protect you from getting sick as well as reducing the spread of germs from your hands to other surfaces.

Feces from people or animals is a source of germs like Salmonella and E. Coli. These germs can get on hands after using the toilet or changing a diaper. Handling raw meat can also transfer these germs onto hands. A single gram of human feces can contain up to 1 trillion germs. Germs can also spread to hands by touching contaminated surfaces, like someone coughed or sneezed on the surface.

Handwashing also helps in the battle against antibiotic resistance. By washing our hands frequently, the number of infections decreases because we have eliminated the germs before they had a chance to proliferate in our bodies. Thus, we don’t have to take as many antibiotics.

When should I wash my hands?

Washing hands often can reduce the spread of germs. There are key times when you should wash your hands because you are more likely to get or spread germs. They include:

Before, during, and after preparing food

Before eating food

Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea

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

During COVID-19, you should also wash your hands:

• After you have been in a public place and touched an item or surface that may be frequently touched by others

• Before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth because that is how germs enter our body.

How do I wash my hands the right way?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have provided 5 simple steps to make sure that your hands are properly washed.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Or watch the following video to see the right way to wash your hands.

When should I use hand sanitizer?

Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs.

However, that is not always an option. If soap and water is not

available, then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at

least 60% alcohol.

Hand sanitizers can reduce the number of germs but, like everything else,

they have their drawbacks. Drawbacks include:

• They do not get rid of all types of germs.

• They are less effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

• They may not remove harsh chemicals like pesticides and heavy metals.

How do I use hand sanitizer?

• Apply the product to the palm of one hand. The product label should advise you of how much to use.

• Rub your hands together.

• Rub the product over all surfaces of hands and fingers until your hands are dry. These should take about 20 seconds.

Handwashing Know-how

• Is antibacterial soap better than plain soap?

According to the CDC, studies have found no added benefit to using antibacterial soap.

• Is bar soap better than liquid soap?

Both work just as well to remove germs, so it just depends on your own preference.

• Is it better to use warm or cold water?

Use the temperature that you prefer. Warm and cold water remove the same amount of germs. The water is just to cause the soap to lather, so that the soap will remove the germs. In order for water alone to remove germs, it would have to be hot enough that it would scald your hands.