It’s National Handwashing Awareness Week, and 2020 has been the year of handwashing!
Hand washing is one of the most effective ways to avoid getting sick. Germs spread when we touch an infected surface, and then we touch our face, body, and personal items before washing our hands.
Many infectious diseases can be spread through contaminated hands. Soap destroys viruses, including COVID-19 and gastrointestinal infections such as Salmonella and norovirus that cause diarrhea, and respiratory infections like influenza. Some of these diseases can be fatal, especially for immuno-compromised people, seniors, and babies.
Even if you are not sick, you can transfer these germs by touching a surface and then touching another person or another surface. The germs spread from your hand to whatever else you touch. Handwashing is important to protect your own health and the health of others around you.
Hand washing is a means of personal hygiene and an important measure to control infections and their spread. The likelihood of transmitting infectious diseases lowers significantly if you wash your hands after coming in contact with potentially contaminated surfaces.
As a rule, hand washing should be included in everyone’s daily routine. Even if you wear gloves, this doesn’t eliminate the need to wash your hands. Read on to find out when you should wash your hands and proper handwashing techniques.
When to Wash Your Hands
When you touch surfaces and people, you accumulate germs on your hands. These germs can infect you when you touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
You cannot be germ-free at all times, but you can limit the amount of germ transfer by washing your hands frequently.
Frequent hand washing is a hygienic habit that everyone should practice several times throughout the day. Always wash your hands when coming back home, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Certain surfaces have frequent contact, and therefore have a higher likelihood of spreading germs.
Wash your hands after you touch:
- Phone screens
- Light switches and pedestrian crossing buttons
- Gas pumps
- POS terminals (credit card machines) and ATMs
- Shopping carts or baskets
It’s also important to wash your hands after participating in certain activities:
Preparing food and eating
- Before, during, and after preparing or cooking food
- Before eating or drinking
- After handling money or receipts
- After shaking hands with someone
- After visiting a sick person
- Before and after using public transportation
- Before and after going to a hospital, doctor’s office, or any medical facility
- After using the washroom
- After changing a baby’s diaper or helping a small child use the washroom
- After a sexual or intimate activity
- Before and after treating a burn or wound
- Before changing contact lenses
- After blowing your nose, sneezing, or coughing
- After feeding your pet
- After walking your dog
- After handling animal waste
- After grooming your pet
- After cleaning a cage or aquarium
Are You Washing Your Hands Properly?
Washing your hands with soap and water is an effective way to kill germs. But if you don’t wash your hands thoroughly or long enough, you can increase your chances of getting sick.
Hand washing steps:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap
- Apply soap and lather your hands by rubbing them together
- Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, wrists, and under your nails
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water, and make sure to remove all the soap
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them
Handwashing to Prevent Diseases
While it’s impossible to protect ourselves against diseases by handwashing completely, proper handwashing makes a massive difference in getting sick. Washing your hands well and frequently prevents approximately 30% of diarrhea-related illnesses and 20% of respiratory infections.
Here are some illnesses and diseases that you can increase your chances of avoiding by proper handwashing.
COVID-19 can lead to pneumonia, severe acute respiratory failure, and sometimes death in immuno-compromised people and senior citizens.
Proper handwashing can reduce the risk of contracting the virus by 70%.
Norovirus can cause gastrointestinal infections. Just a single particle of norovirus can get you sick more quickly than 100 particles of the flu virus. Handwashing prevents the spread of norovirus and stops large-scale transmission and outbreaks.
Pink Eye can make your eyes super itchy and gooey. When you rub your eyes with unwashed hands, viruses and bacteria on your hands can cause pink eye. Children have a higher risk of getting pink eye than adults. It’s advisable to wash hands frequently to prevent eye inventions.
Salmonella can be contracted from improper handwashing after using the washroom or changing diapers. It can also be transmitted by touching infected animals, through infected food, and from unwashed fruits and vegetables. To avoid salmonella, it is important to be diligent about washing your hands before and after using the washroom or handling food.
Hand-foot-and-mouth disease is common among children. The infection is caused by the Coxsackie virus, which causes sores and rashes on hands, feet, and mouth. An infected person can transmit infectious particles. Prevent these infections all together just by washing hands.
Coli outbreaks happen when a person comes in contact with an infected person or animal. Proper handwashing is hugely instrumental in preventing the spread of E. coli.
The Common Cold is not as severe as other infections, but it can give you a headache and make you feel miserable. Handwashing can lower the risk of getting respiratory infections.
Handwashing can reduce:
- Diarrheal illness by 30%
- Respiratory infections, like colds by 16-21 percent
- Gastrointestinal illness by 29-57 percent
One germ can multiply into more than 8 million germs in one day, and washing your hands can prevent that. Your hands spread nearly 80 percent of illness-causing germs.
Your doorknobs, light switches, handbags, phones, keyboards, keys, cutting board, and countertops are top carriers of bacteria. These all house more germs than a public toilet seat.
Thoroughly washing your hands can help prevent the spread of disease and protect your health and the health of your friends and family.
Always observe good hygiene and handwashing practices to help prevent the spread of disease. Even if you are not concerned for your health, remember that your hands spread germs to surfaces that other people then touch.
Handwashing is a quick and effective way to cut down the spread of germs. If you don’t have access to soap and water, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
If you do get sick, speak to a medical professional at CityHealth Urgent Care.
If you are concerned, you may have contracted the coronavirus, or if you have been in contact with someone who has coronavirus, get tested at one of our Bay Area testing locations.
If you have a cold, flu, diarrheal illness, or you have questions about your health, please book an appointment at one of our Bay Area locations. We also offer virtual appointments for all our patients, meaning you can speak to a medical professional without even leaving your house.