Hand hygiene and how it can protect you and those around you
World Hand Hygiene Day is celebrated annually on 5 May.
Personal hygiene, especially hand hygiene, is a great way to help stop the spread of germs which can be harmful to you and those who come into contact with you. Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick.
Your hands carry germs easily
Whether it’s touching things that have bacteria on or covering your mouth with your hand when your sneeze or cough, there are bound to be germs on your hand which can be transferred to others and make them ill.
Cross contamination can be dangerous
When it comes to handling food such as raw chicken, there is the danger of transferring food poisoning causing bacteria to surfaces and people if your hands are not washed in between.
Bacteria breeds quickly
This means that if you do not clean your hands properly or you forget to wash them, the bacteria will very quickly increase in number, which can in turn mean there is more to spread about when you touch other people or surfaces.
Germs can spread from other people or surfaces when you:
- Touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Prepare or eat food and drinks with unwashed hands
- Touch a contaminated surface or objects
- Blow your nose, cough, or sneeze into hands and then touch other people’s hands or common objects
To prevent the spread of germs during the COVID-19 pandemic, you should also wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a hand sanitiser with at least 60% alcohol to clean hands before and after:
- Touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
- Touching your mask
- Entering and leaving a public place
- Touching an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people, such as door handles, tables, shopping carts or baskets
Knowing the best way to wash hands and learning that all important hand washing procedure is a lifestyle choice that will help to protect you and your family.
Follow these steps to wash your hands the right way:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the Happy Birthday song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Knowing why you should and how you should wash your hands are obviously important points, but so too is knowing when. Some of the most important times to wash your hands are:
- Before, during and after preparing food
- Before and after eating food
- Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhoea
- 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 handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to get rid of germs in most situations. If soap and water are not readily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol (check the product label).
Sanitisers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in many situations. However, sanitisers do not get rid of all types of germs. Hand sanitisers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.
Hand sanitisers might not remove harmful chemicals from hands like pesticides and heavy metals.
Disclaimer: All content on the The Local Choice Pharmacy is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health advice.