Washing your hands is one of the simplest and most effective ways of preventing illness from contact with bacteria or a virus including COVID-19. It seems like such common sense to us now, but the idea of preventing the spread of disease by simply washing your hands is not that old. It was really only 130 years ago that handwashing became an accepted practice in the medical system and, eventually, a recommended habit to the general public. Today, it’s perhaps one of the best hygienic habits to develop especially during a pandemic. But as simple an act as it is, there is still a lot of important information about hand washing that is good to know. Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about handwashing. And if you have more questions than the ones we have covered here, be sure to reference the CDC article Frequent Questions About Hand Hygiene.
What are the benefits of properly washing your hands?
Washing hands before and after eating, preparing food, using the restroom, shopping, and being in public places is a healthy habit. It is recommended to wash your hands before and after holding pets, pet food, treats and snacks; after touching garbage; after changing diapers; and after touching items or surfaces frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers/screens. Doctors also recommend hand washing after touching or changing face masks, sneezing, coughing, touching your mouth and nose especially during the pandemic. It is the easiest, cheapest and fastest way to protect not just your own health and life but, also, the health and lives of people around you. Hand washing can help keep the entire family from getting sick. It’s important to understand that we could be both a source of spreading illnesses and a recipient.
Is it important to always wash hands several times a day or only during the pandemic?
These days, everyone talks about hygiene and handwashing but it is not a new concept. It has always been an important hygienic habit that can help stop the spread of all kinds of bacteria and viruses including the common cold. COVID-19 is a good reason to talk about health, self-protection, and how to prevent the spread of viruses that can cause serious illnesses. The CDC recommends everyone continue taking preventative steps even after getting vaccinated for COVID-19 including regular handwashing.
Who should be concerned with hand hygiene and disinfection?
The answer is absolutely everyone! Good hygienic habits like handwashing should be practiced by everybody. It’s especially recommended for groups of people that are more vulnerable to infections. This includes seniors, pregnant women, breastfeeding women, newborn babies, cancer patients, and people with serious medical conditions.
Getting your kids to wash their hands can be a challenge. It’s worth the effort to instill good handwashing habits from an early age since children tend to get into dirtier situations like playing in the park or outside in the dirt. Kids also tend to share food or drinks and touch their faces and then go on to show physical affection to friends and family. The 5 basic steps to properly washing your hands are easy enough for a child to master.
What are the five steps of proper handwashing?
When and How to Wash Your Hands is an article by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that illustrates the steps to proper handwashing in a way that anyone can follow and practice:
- Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Turn off the tap after wetting your hands in order to conserve water.
- Lather hands by rubbing them together. Don’t miss the backs of your hands, space between fingers and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice to give yourself an approximate timer.
- Rinse your hands under running water.
- Finally, dry your hands using a towel or air dry them.
Does handwashing kill 100% of germs and viruses?
According to Harvard Health, handwashing with soap and water kills over 90% of bacteria. Washing your hands frequently and consistently is central to this recommended hygienic habit.
How often should we wash our hands per day?
It depends on your duties and daily routine. For a person working from home with minimal interaction with the public, this number might be twelve times–before and after three basic meals and after using the restroom. For someone in the food services industry, that number will increase dramatically.
Does the quality of tap water matter for handwashing?
The CDC handwashing instructions stipulate that hands are washed with clean running water. When running water is not available, hand sanitizer can be used as a substitute method for keeping good hand hygiene.
When is it necessary to use hand sanitizer?
The CDC recommends hand washing to prevent the spread of germs, including COVID-19. But in situations where there is no access to a sink with clean running water and soap to wash your hands, they recommend using a liquid hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.