May 5th marks the celebration of World Hand Hygiene Day! A campaign initiated by the WHO; World Hand Hygiene Day promotes proper hand hygiene for a multitude of reasons. According to the CDC, in 2020 about 2.3 billion people did not have access to basic hygiene services while another 1.6 billion people had access to handwashing spaces that lacked water and/or soap. Understanding that proper hand cleansing is a surefire way to preventing the onset of illnesses, such as the common cold and flu, makes it all the more important to be aware of how to do it properly. With that, we’ll be sharing our guidance to proper handwashing to keep yourself and your loved ones healthy.
1. When to wash your hands
Given that extremely frequent hand washing can lead to dry, irritated skin, it is important to understand the situations in which you need to wash your hands to avoid irritation. The key times in which you are likely to contract and spread germs are: during food preparation, while eating, after caring for someone ill, while treating a wound, after using the bathroom, after touching and handling an animal, after touching garbage, and after blowing your nose/coughing. If you’re planning on doing any of these, it is important that you wash your hands before/after these events to ensure minimal germ spread.
2. Necessary materials
The materials necessary for washing your hands are straightforward. You need clean, running water of any temperature, soap, and something to dry them with. These 3 components are what aid in successful handwashing regimens. Wetting your hands before you apply soap allows for easier lathering and scrubbing.
3. Scrubbing patterns
Though the materials themselves are important, it is also important that you take the time to scrub your hands. Scrubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds will help remove any germs/bacteria. The important places to lather on include the back of your hands, between each finger, and underneath your nails. Doing so ensures that you haven’t missed a single spot and are fully sanitizing your hands.
4. Drying method matters (a little bit!)
There are two means to which you can dry your hands after washing: 1) using a clean towel or 2) air drying. While the latter seems to be the more environmentally friendly option, using a clean towel/paper towel allows for additional mechanical removal of any germs. When possible, aim to dry your hands with a clean towel to ensure best germ removal.
Another option to consider when it comes to cleaning your hands is hand sanitizer. When soap and water aren’t available, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol is the best course of action. Remember though, hand sanitizers don’t get rid of all types of germs and may not be the most effective when hands are visibly dirty/greasy. To learn more about how you can promote better handwashing hygiene, visit https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html