Washing your hands is something you do every day and multiple times a day. As we spend more time inside each winter, and as a result, disease spreads, washing your hands becomes particularly important this time of the year.
Why does something so simple receive recognition during the first week of December each year? Because washing hands saves lives!
Handwashing and the Flu
Proper handwashing is key in diminishing the spread of the flu and other illnesses. Wash your hands as frequently as you realistically can after you come in contact with commonly touched surfaces. Many of us touch our faces with our hands far more than we realize. This interaction between dirty hands and your face is a primary reason someone becomes infected with a disease.
As always, you want to be sure to wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. This sounds quick, but often times feels longer than you anticipate when put into practice. A rule of thumb is to wash for the duration of singing “Happy Birthday.”
The Difference Handwashing Can Make
The CDC emphasizes just how important washing our hands is not only for ourselves but also for the rest of our community. Research shows that washing hands with soap and water could reduce deaths from diarrheal disease by up to 50%. A study from 2003 even went as far to estimate that if everyone routinely washed their hands, 1 million deaths a year could be prevented.
This is of particular importance around the holidays if you are attending any family gatherings. Plus, if you are cooking, be extra careful to ensure your hands are clean when preparing food for others as this is another common way germs spread.
While not as effective, hand sanitizer still can play a pivotal role in preventing the spread of germs. When 16 elementary schools placed hand sanitizer stations in their classrooms the absence rate among students decreased by an average of 19.8% the researchers found. The CDC makes a point to mention that hand sanitizer will not eliminate all germs, but is still a preferable option in comparison to not cleaning your hands at all. If you have to choose between hand sanitizer and handwashing with soap and water – choose hand washing.
Improve your Handwashing Technique
Taking time to wash your hands is a great first step, but how you wash your hands is also very important. The CDC provides many brochures and pamphlets that diagram the correct handwashing procedure, but in order to set yourself up for success, it is best to watch their video.
Are you Washing your Hands Enough?
Frequent hand washing can be time-consuming but is a worthwhile precaution to help keep yourself safe. You already know the obvious times to wash your hands, like when making food, using the bathroom, and picking up garbage or bodily fluids. But not everyone is aware of the precautions you should take when touching your pets. The CDC recommends washing your hands after touching pets, as well as their food or treats.
Keep in mind that too much hand washing often causes the drying out of your hands, so plan to counteract this with moisturizing products, particularly during the winter months.