Wash your hands for hygiene

Posted on 9 June 2014

Banish harmful germs and infectious diseases: wash your hands often – and make sure you know how to do it properly.

We’re taught the principles of hand hygiene as children but, as we get older, we often forget them. Keep in mind that it’s an excellent way of avoiding diseases, especially if you’ve been in contact with someone who has a cold, the flu or an unpleasant stomach bug. Earlier this year in May, the World Health Organization launched its ‘Save lives: clean your hands’ campaign. Although this day focused on hand hygiene in healthcare, it offered all of us the chance to relook our own routine.

How it works?
When you touch contaminated surfaces, micro-organisms grow on your hands at an alarming rate. Think about the doorknob at the office, or the exercise bike at the gym…

From there, germs quickly spread to your eyes, nose and mouth, so you could infect yourself as well as others fast if you don’t wash your hands. That’s how the flu easily floors a whole family or a several colleagues in no time at all.

Good hand hygiene, however, could prevent germs from spreading from one person to the next throughout a whole community.

Golden rules
According to the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand hygiene could cut diarrhea-related deaths by up to 50%. Moreover, UK research suggests that one million deaths per year could be prevented if everyone washed their hands regularly.?And good hand hygiene could even lower the incidence of respiratory diseases by 16%.

Stay healthy by taking the following steps:
1. Wash your hands often with soap and running water. At home, the use of regular soap and water while rubbing your hands together is sufficient to get rid of germs. (Avoid using antimicrobial soap, which could lead to antimicrobial resistance.
2. Use running water, because your hands could be contaminated again if you rinse it in a basin full of dirty water.
3. Dry your hands every time – use a clean towel or a paper towel (the friction between your hands and the fabric helps to remove any residual micro-organisms), or a hot-air dryer.

Good timing
How you wash your hands is just as important as how often you do it. Always wash your hands…
• Before, during and after food preparation
• Before you eat
• After you’ve played outside or worked in the garden
• After you’ve touched an animal
• After you’ve been to the toilet
• After changing a baby’s nappy
• After taking care of relatives who are ill
• Before and after treating cuts or wounds
• After you’ve had contact with any bodily fluids
• After you’ve coughed, sneezed or blown your nose

Life-saving lessons
• Children may not show much interest when we teach them to wash their hands, but it’s important to repeat the message and establish a routine.
• A clever plan is to get kids to sing the song ‘Happy birthday’ twice while they’re scrubbing up. The singing will take 15-20 seconds – long enough to get rid of dirt and micro-organisms.
• An alcohol-based hand gel is another effective way to banish micro-organisms – unless your hands are visibly dirty. It is convenient to carry in your handbag.

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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.

Published in Healthy Life

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