One of the most basic and easiest hygiene habits we are taught as kids is washing our hands. Ideally, we were expected to wash our hands thoroughly before and after several activities. But if we are being honest, how many of us followed it to a T? Kids are not 100 percent diligent about washing hands, especially when no one is checking on them. Neither are adults if numbers are any indication.
‘But what is the big deal about washing hands?’ we find ourselves asking each other. However, things do get clearer in the light of diseases and even the outbreak of pandemics such as the COVID-19. Washing hands is an important step in maintaining personal and environmental hygiene, keeping diseases at bay, and also inculcating a sense of discipline.
How to Wash Hands Properly?
Washing your hands with soap and water is the most effective and easy way of washing your hands to get them clean of dirt, grime, germs, and everything that you don’t want to be on your hands. But are we doing it right? According to ‘The State of Handwashing in 2017’ report released by Global Handwashing Partnership, overall hand hygiene compliance is rarely at satisfactory levels around the world including settings such as schools and healthcare facilities.
What could explain poor compliance are 2017 statistics by UNICEF which say that about three out of five people had basic handwashing facilities. To sum it up, awareness around hand hygiene, especially hand washing, remains bleak. Is it time to revisit the basics? Why not!
Proper handwashing is done with soap and water and gets all surfaces of your hands clean. Here is a step-by-step guide to washing hands.
- Wet your hands with running water.
- Take a required amount of soap on the palm of your hand.
- Rub your palms against each other.
- Put your right palm on the back of your left hand and clean between your left-hand fingers. Repeat the same for the right hand.
- Intertwine fingers palm-to-palm and repeat a similar motion.
- Next, hook the fingertips of each hand onto the finger bases of the other. This cleans the fingertips as well as the bases.
- Wrap the fingers of one hand around the thumb of the other and clean in a rotational motion. Repeat for the other hand.
- Lastly, rub the center of your palms with the fingertips in circular motions for both hands.
- Rinse the soap off with water.
During each of the cleansing motions, count to ten. If you are in a public restroom or washbasin/sink, ensure your hands don’t directly touch the tap water. Close the tap using the tissue you have used to wipe your hands or direct the tap with your elbow.
How Often Should I Wash Hands?
It is ideal to wash your hands with soap and water before and after every task. In cases where that seems difficult, ensure you don’t skip the process in the following circumstances:
- After using the washroom (in public as well as at home)
- Before and after eating food
- Before and after cooking food
- When you come back home
- After touching your pets or any animals
- After being with a person who is sick, especially someone with communicable diseases
- After sneezing or coughing
- After handling the trash
Also, practice necessary hygiene while cooking. Wash hands between dealing with different categories of food such as dairy and meat, or spices and seafood. Wipe hands clean after washing them. Another thing you might want to consider is keeping your nails short and clean. Longer nails can harbor an unnecessary amount of dirt and germs. Keep them clean and short.
Using Hand Sanitizers
A hand sanitizer is a viable option to consider when you find yourself outside without access to soap and water. One should prepare beforehand for situations like these and carry a hand sanitizer with them.
The CDC recommends using an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. However, sanitizers cannot completely replace washing hands. They do not work against all germs, heavy or harmful chemicals, and are not always useful to get rid of grease or dirt. So use them as an option during emergencies.
Moreover, it is important to be careful around sanitizers, especially with children. Ingesting sanitizers could cause poisoning. Also, ensure you rub your hands for 20 seconds and let the sanitizer dry completely.
To sum it up, washing hands may sound like a small thing, but it is a line you draw between your good health and the threat it faces. Moreover, with such hygiene practices, you are also protecting your loved ones and those around you.