Hand washing is a daily act of responsibility that we should all know and comply with effectively to avoid contamination with a chilling number of bacteria daily.
It is estimated that our hands, being the functional part of our body that is in direct contact with a greater number of objects and surfaces at every moment of the day, can come into contact with up to ten million different bacteria, which explains how necessary it is to maintain constant hand hygiene.
Why Washing the Hands Is So Important?
Organizations such as WHO and Unicef, are aware of the need to inform the importance of washing hands and doing it correctly.
This is the most effective and preventive attitude to avoid the spread of many disease-transmitting pathogens.
In less developed countries this inconsequent action often has irreversible consequences for those who are affected.
This is why they have established a day in the annual calendar dedicated to “Handwashing”.
Washing hands properly is a commitment that everyone has with themselves and with others, not only in sectors that seem to be more obligatory, such as food handling and production, health care, laboratories, or care of babies and the elderly.
In all kinds of activities, even those that seem innocuous, washing hands correctly avoids a large number of problems for personal health and for those around us.
According to the Hand-washing Association, the list of diseases that we can prevent by washing our hands if we do it properly is more than 200.
With Proper Handwashing You Can Avoid:
- Serious eye infections caused by rubbing the eyes with dirty hands.
- Infection of open wounds.
- Transmission of flu, common colds, and other viruses affecting the respiratory tract are other possible consequences of not washing hands.
- Intestinal parasites that cause gas, severe diarrhea and abdominal pain of varying intensity.
- Gastric diseases such as gastritis or gastroenteritis, caused by a lack of hand hygiene.
- Foot and mouth disease, transmitted by the ingestion of food contaminated with fecal remains infected with a virus; which generates blisters on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, and inside the mouth.
- Salmonella, produced by unhygienic food, handling food without washing dirty hands, or after touching animals.
- Hepatitis A, contracted by infection of food handled by someone infected with this virus, is an example enough to understand why it is so important to maintain good hand hygiene.
- Hemorrhagic diarrhea caused by E. coli bacteria, which can be fatal.
When Should You Wash Your Hands?
Nowadays, cell phones, keyboards, handrails, and handles of public transport, together with banknotes and coins, are vehicles for transmitting all kinds of pathogens with which our hands come into contact a large number of times every day.
That is why it is so important to know and practice proper hand washing at any time of the day when it is necessary.
Teaching this type of behavior from early childhood makes it become an almost unconscious habit, maintaining this preventive and healthy attitude from infant hands until adulthood.
Unlike other body hygiene criteria, such as the frequency of daily showers, hair hygiene, intimate hygiene, or oral hygiene; proper hand washing does not follow daily or weekly schedules and should be performed every time our hands come into contact with a new health risk depending on the activity you are carrying out or are going to carry out.
As an associative reference, here are some of the most typical punctual moments in which the need to wash hands is always necessary:
- Before starting food preparation and touching utensils, kitchenware and tableware.
- Before starting any type of meal. By extension, it may also be necessary to wash hands after eating if they have been soiled by contact with food taken directly with the hands, or soiled utensils.
- Always wash hands after urinating, defecating, changing sanitary napkins, or diapering a baby.
- It is also important to wash hands after grasping items on the road and public transport, or money.
- Immediately after touching animals and pets.
- To clean any kind of wounds or scratches it is also important to wash hands.
- When hands have come into contact with soil, manure or garbage.
As a general rule, you should wash your hands whenever you consider that there is a potential risk to your health because you have come into contact with some kind of unhealthy element.
But, is any type of hand-washing acceptable?
The answer is that water alone does not disinfect the pathogenic organisms that are constantly in contact with our hands, and furthermore, for proper handwashing, a certain amount of time of exposure to the cleaning agents is necessary while performing the most appropriate movements so that hygiene is complete, accessing all areas of our hands, without neglecting any part.
For this reason, studies and tests have been carried out to verify which steps are the most correct to achieve the cleaning and disinfection of hands.
Step-by-Step Routines for Proper Hand Washing.
In the overall sanitary environment, the best way to wash hands is by doing the following:
Remove rings and ornaments, and raise the cuffs of shirts and sweaters, so that they are not an impediment when washing the hands including also the wrists.
Step 1: After turning on the faucet, wet your hands thoroughly with water, but do not waste it.
Step 2: After turning off the faucet, spread the hand soap on one palm and rub it against the other palm to generate abundant lather, making this movement a few times.
Step 3: Then rub each palm over the back of the other hand, and vice versa, reaching the wrist and rubbing them in rotation.
Step 4: Interlace the fingers and rub from inside to outside first with one hand and then with the other hand, also in a rotating motion.
Step 5: Use the nail brush and rub the nails of one hand first, then the other hand.
Step 6: Turn on the faucet to rinse and remove all traces of hand soap, using the nail brush to remove any remaining dirt from the nails.
Step 7: Pour water over the faucet handle with your hands before turning it off.
Step 8: Dry your hands well to prevent them from cracking.
To wash your hands properly, it is necessary to spend at least two to three minutes between rubbing and rinsing, to calculate the time experts advise choosing a song to wash your hands that last this approximate time.
If you have to wash your hands in a public restroom, after doing so, use paper to turn off the faucet, if it does not turn off automatically, and also use it to avoid touching handles when leaving the bathroom, then look for a wastebasket to dispose of the paper in a civic way.
And if you don’t like to use a hand dryer, use disposable wipes or toilet paper rather than a used cloth towel when you are away from home.
There are currently a large number of hygienic solutions for effective hand washing, even in times when it is impossible to have water and soap for hands, we refer to antibacterial solutions made with alcohol and moisturizing products, which although they do not replace soap and water, they significantly reduce the number of pathogens contained in the hands.
This type of hand hygiene is no longer exclusive to health centers and hospitals.
Now you can find hand sanitizer soap in bathrooms of public places such as restaurants, schools, or gyms, and can also be purchased in shopping centers and pharmacies, with pocket formats and sprays that you can carry with you to use at any time.