Washing your hands correctly is the most effective thing you can do to protect yourself against a number of infectious diseases, such as influenza (the “flu”) and the common cold. Not only will it help keep you healthy, it will help prevent the spread of infectious diseases to others.
Even if your hands appear to be clean, they may carry germs. Hands pick up micro-organisms (germs) in a number of ways
Benefits of washing your hands
Lowers Risk of Diarrhea and Intestinal Problems
Washing hands lowers the risk of having diarrhea and developing intestinal infections, an important benefit particularly for children. Diarrheal disease is one of the leading causes of death in children under 5 throughout the world. Contact with fecal matter causes such illnesses and can be prevented by washing hands with soap. It may also prevent complications connected to intestinal worms.
Prevents Eye Infections
The spread of bacterial eye infections, such as trachoma, can be reduced through regular hand washing. It can also lower the likelihood of contracting conjunctivitis, or pink eye. This irritating eye condition causes eye pain, itching, light sensitivity and discharge. It is spread a number of ways, with the most common being through viruses. Always wash your hands before putting in contacts, as being a contacts wearer increases your risk of having pink eye.
Lowers Respiratory Infection Risk
You can lower your chances of developing an acute respiratory infection by making hand washing a priority. The pathogens that cause respiratory complications are commonly found on surfaces and hands. Some of the pathogens associated with diarrhea also cause respiratory problems. Hand washing significantly reduces your chances of getting sick.
When should you wash your hands
• Before, during, and after preparing food
• Before eating food
• Before and after caring for someone who is sick
• 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 touching garbage
Although hand washing might seem like a simple task, you should follow these steps to thoroughly rid your hands of germs.
How to wash your hands
• Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand cleansers are useful when soap and water are not available. In most cases antibacterial soap is not necessary for safe, effective hand hygiene.
• Remove any hand or arm jewellery you may be wearing and wet your hands with warm water. Add regular soap and rub your hands together, ensuring you have lathered all surfaces for at least 15 seconds. How long is 15 seconds? The length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday.
• Wash the front and back of your hands, as well as between your fingers and under your nails.
• Rinse your hands well under warm running water, using a rubbing motion.
• Wipe and dry your hands gently with a paper towel or a clean towel. Drying them vigorously can damage the skin.
• Turn off the tap using the paper towel so that you do not re-contaminate your hands. When using a public bathroom, use the same paper towel to open the door when you leave.
• If skin dryness is a problem, use a moisturizing lotion.