Girl: “Something different is happening at school. We now have to wash our hands at the entrance before going to class.
Mom: “Oh, that’s nice! It is very important to keep our hands clean at all times and washing our hands takes germs away.”
Girl: “What are germs?”
Mom: “Germs are tiny organisms(living things) that can cause disease and make people ill.”
Handwashing is globally celebrated on October 15 annually and the theme for Global Handwashing Day(GHD) 2020 is ‘Our hands, our future’. GHD encourages and mobilizes individuals and communities around the world to improve upon their handwashing culture. With recent occurrences, especially the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no longer news that handwashing is a common tool which can save many lives.
Hand hygiene also known as hand washing is a very interesting practice which has increasingly gained popularity globally. Awareness and practice of washing hands especially with the COVID-19 has increased especially at public spaces. Many organizations provide facilities for handwashing at the entrance which motivates people to wash their hands. Some people say that their choice of resturants usually depend on how clean their toilets are and whether or not the restaurant has adequate handwashing facilities. Hand washing is a simple procedure that can be practiced by anyone and anywhere, it is a part of some people’s daily job( for example food handlers, health care workers amongst others) or just done generally as a routine by most people . Thinking about it, one may say it is difficult to find adults that go through a day without washing their hands, but on the contrary, depending on the level of development in an area, there may still be a number of people who do not understand the importance of hand washing and hence do not practice it. It is one thing to know that handwashing is important and it is another to know the proper way of washing the hands.
Washing the hands is not only beneficial to the individual who practices it but also to the people around with whom the individual interacts and in fact it has numerous benefits. In the event of an epidemic or a pandemic such as the ongoing COVID-19, hand washing becomes very important in limiting the spread of and reducing the burden of the disease. The term “Hand washing “may sound simple but it sure goes beyond merely running water over the hands for it to be effective, it requires using the appropriate technique for the sufficient duration. It is not only useful in cleansing the hands of disease-causing organisms like bacteria or viruses, it also helps take off unwanted chemicals from the hands. Knowing the role the hands play during feeding, where they are either directly involved in holding the food, or indirectly involved when cutleries are used, it can be inferred that anything on the hand(s) can easily get into the mouth. Hence there is a huge need to keep the hand clean at all times.
A consequence of hand washing in preventing certain diseases by curtailing spread, is that it also reduces morbidity and mortality from those conditions. Health education on the importance of hand washing is required especially in low income areas( E.g rural areas) where the practice may be lower compared to higher income areas( e.g urban areas) and provision of adequate safe hand washing facilities in these areas is encouraged. Hand washing with soap has become one of the most effective and inexpensive ways to prevent diarrhoeal diseases, respiratory tract diseases amongst others. Several awareness campaigns motivating people to wash their hands regularly are organised globally.
A question may be asked on how many times the hands should be washed in a day, and the answer will be that the hands should be washed as many times as necessary. Hand washing is the act of cleaning hands for the purpose of removing soil, dirt, microorganisms( Wikipedia). It is a quick and simple preventive measure that does a lot of good. One would humorously say that the only party which does not benefit from the practice of hand washing are the microorganisms that are being washed away. Frequent handwashing in a day is highly recommended and some common situations that require hand washing include:- After taking off your facemask or touching surfaces in a common area, before and after using the toilet, before and after preparing food, before eating, after touching waste materials (for example, animal waste, garbage, dirty diapers), treating wounds or caring for a sick person, before administering medication, after blowing the nose, coughing or sneezing, before and after touching pets among others.
Practicing the proper technique of hand washing is of immense importance. The effective method of hand washing involves the following steps:
• Wet the hands with clean, running water and apply soap
• Form lather on the hands by rubbing them together. Ensure lather reaches the back of the hands, in-between the fingers and under the nails.
• Scrub the hands for a minimum period of twenty to twenty-five seconds( 20-25 seconds). To encourage kids to stay longer while washing their hands, parents or caregivers can sing a song with them while they are scrubbing the hands.
• Rinse the hands well under clean running water
• Dry the hands with a clean towel or using an air dryer.
At times when there is no hand washing facilities, alcohol based hand sanitizers with atleast 60% alcohol can be used to thoroughly clean the hands.
It is evident that maintaining clean hands can save lives thus organisations are encouraged to provide adequate facilities for proper hand washing as their contribution in preventing diseases that could spread from contaminated hands.
Health quote of the week: ‘Washing Hands Can Save Lives!’– Dennis Prager.