Clean hands can save lives: part two

Posted on 19 May 2015

Here are the way you can reduce your risk against picking an illness with clean hands.

Proper hand washing involves five steps:
1. Wet your hands (with hot or cold water – temperature has not been shown to impact microbe removal).
2. Lather with soap (remember to clean the backs of your hands, under your nails and up to your wrists).
3. Scrub (for a minimum of 20 seconds).
4. Rinse (under clean water, not in the same water you used to begin with to avoid recontamination).
5. Dry (germs are more easily spread via wet hands; use a clean towel or air-dry).

When you wash your hands, you needn’t use an antimicrobial soap. Ordinary soap will do. Here’s when you should wash your hands:
• After handling pets, their food or waste, or if you are scratched or bitten by an animal.
• After you’ve coughed, sneezed or blown your nose (throw the tissue away immediately).
• After housework and taking out the rubbish, working in the garden or cleaning drains.
• Before and after preparing or eating food. This especially applies after touching high-risk foods such as raw meat.
• When your hands are visibly soiled.
• After going to the bathroom or changing your child’s nappy.
• After caring for someone who is ill or treating or dressing a wound.
• After touching surfaces in busy public places.

Teach your children to make regular hand washing a habit, just as they learn to brush their teeth twice a day. New mums must remember to clean nappy-changing mats and surrounding areas with baby-safe disinfectant spray or wipes before and after use. And don’t forget to clean kids’ toys. If your child has asthma, bath your dog once to twice weekly to remove dander from its coat.
Home and work
• Don’t reuse utensils that have touched raw meat, fish or chicken.
• Microwave kitchen cloths and sponges for 60 seconds to disinfect them.
• Wash underwear, towels and household linen at 40–60ºC with a bleach-based product, and run the washing machine on empty weekly, either at a high temperature or with a disinfectant.
• Pay special attention to cleaning parts of the house more likely to collect germs, such as the bathroom and kitchen.
• Make sure cleaning aids are also cleaned, as germs can stick to cloths, sponges and mops.

Public and travel
Keep a water-free sanitising hand gel in your bag for when soap and water aren’t readily available. It should contain 60% alcohol, no less. Use it especially after touching hot spots for germs: supermarket trolleys, condiments at restaurants, shower curtains, remote controls, cellphones, public transport railings, etc.

Join the conversation on Twitter #BanishBacteria.

The information provided in this article was correct at the time of publishing. At Mediclinic we endeavour to provide our patients and readers with accurate and reliable information, which is why we continually review and update our content. However, due to the dynamic nature of clinical information and medicine, some information may from time to time become outdated prior to revision.

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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