By Bernice James
Washing your hands is the best way to avoid getting sick and stopping germs from spreading. Washing your hands correctly is the most effective thing you can do to protect yourself against a number of infectious diseases. Not only will it help keep you healthy, it also will prevent the spread of infectious diseases to others. How many times do you wash your hands a day? Can you imagine the number of germs your hands come in contact with daily? Most illnesses are got through your hands.
During our junior secondary education, we were taught that germs are the major causes of disease and that disease means the invasion of germs in the body. Most of the avenues of invasion is from hand to any available opening in the body like the mouth, nose, eyes e.t.c. Bear it in mind that you cannot wear hand gloves 24hours everyday. Every surface your hand come in contact with, your hand picks up germs in a number of ways. For instance, when people who are sick sneeze or cough the germs that make them sick are expelled into the air in tiny droplets. These droplets fall on the surface where they are easily accessible to the hand. If you don’t wash it off, you can carry the infection.
These surface areas are found everywhere; in the office, at home, in the bus, schools, market e.t.c. example of such surface areas are: doorknobs, doorframes, handrails, toys, light switches, telephones, keyboards, tables, chairs, to mention but a few. One should therefore not count the number of times he or she washes hands daily. When you go out and come back, wash your hands before you begin to touch things at home. Even if your hands appear to be clean, they may carry germs. You are urged to wash hands not only for you not to get sick but not to infect others. During the time of Ebola outbreak in Nigeria, the major hygienic step we were adviced to take is hand washing because it is easy for the germs in your hand to end up in your mouth. People frequently touch their eyes, nose and mouth without even realizing it, but washing your hands often is the way out of unhealthiness.
Moreover, germs from unwashed hands can get into foods or drinks to cause food and water borne diseases. The removal of these germs through hand washing helps prevent diarrhea and respiratory infections and may even help prevent skin and eye infections. Hand washing reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31%, reduces diarrhea illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%; and reduces respiratory illness like cold by 21%. From the habit of hand washing.
BEST TIME TO WASH HANDS
- When you come home from work, school, playing outside, church e.t.c.
- When your hands are dirty.
- Before eating or touching food.
- After using the bathroom
- After changing diaper.
- After blowing your nose or coughing or sneezing.
- After touching pets or other animals.
- Before and after visiting a sick person.
- Before breast feeding a baby.
After using the toilet. The toilet is one place one should never overlook when it comes to germs and hand washing because feaces (poop) from people or animals is a huge source of germs like salmonella, E-coli 0157, and norovirus that causes diarrhea. It can spread some respiratory infections like adenovirus and hand-foot-mouth disease. A single gram of human feaces which is about the weight of a paper clip can contain one trillion germs.
PROPER METHODS OF HAND WASHING
Although hand washing might seem like a simple task, you should follow these steps to thoroughly rid your hands of germs.
USING SOAP AND WATER
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.
If you have sensitive skin or are in a position where you must wash your hands constantly (as a healthcare worker must), you might want to use an alcohol-based hand rub instead.
USING ALCOHOL-BASED HAND RUBS/HAND SANITIZER
An alcohol-based hand rub can be used if soap and water are not available.
If your hands are visibly soiled, it is best to use soap and water. If it’s not possible to wash with soap and water, use towelettes to remove the soil, then use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Use hand rubs according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure your hands are dry, as wet hands will dilute the product.
Use enough products to cover all the surfaces of your hands and fingers.
Rub your hands together until the product has evaporated. If dry skin is a problem, use a moisturizing lotion.
MINIMIZING YOUR RISKS OF HAND CONTACT WITH GERMS
Here are further steps you can take to protect yourself and your family.
Wash your hands often, especially after coughing, sneezing or using tissues, before and after eating, before preparing food, after handling raw meat, after petting an animal, and after using the bathroom.
When you cough or sneeze, use a tissue or raise your arm up to your face and aim for your sleeve. Do not sneeze into your hand. Throw away tissues as soon as you use them.
Keep the surface areas in your home and office free of germs by cleaning them. Doorknobs, light switches, telephones, and keyboards are especially important to keep clean.
If you have children, teach them good hygiene and how to wash their hands properly. Young children should be supervised while washing their hands.
- If you use bar soap, keep it in a self-draining holder that can be cleaned thoroughly before a new bar is added.
- Don’t use a single damp cloth to wash a group of children’s hands.
- Don’t use a standing basin of water to rinse your hands.
- Don’t use a common hand towel.
Don’t use sponges or non-disposable cleaning cloths unless you change them daily and launder them using detergent. Germs thrive on moist surfaces.