Handwashing is the simple act of cleaning one’s hands with soap and water to remove gems, viruses, bacteria, and/or microorganisms, including dirt and other potentially harmful substances adhered to the hands. This is so important because it helps to prevent not just only the occurrence of preventable disease conditions, but also the spread of these diseases. Handwashing is a long-time practice dating back to the 19th century after a Hungarian physician, Ignaz Semmelweis discovered its effectiveness in the prevention of diseases around the hospital environment. Apart from the hospital environment, there are other areas where diseases can be contracted, and they include; homes, schools, marketplace, concerts, and religious gatherings. In short, diseases can be contracted anywhere there are humans. That is why it becomes very important to practice frequent and proper handwashing techniques to prevent the occurrence of disease conditions.
Most disease conditions usually find their way into the human body through the senses; eyes, nose, and mouth. This is true because we often subconsciously touch these senses with our hands, which if infected, can lead to the spread of various forms of disease conditions into our bodies. Hence, the importance of frequent handwashing with soap and running water.
Some diseases are transmitted by hand
We cannot overemphasize the benefits of proper handwashing techniques in the fight against killer diseases. In fact, good handwashing is your first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses such as the following;
- Common cold
- Influenza (flu)
- Hepatitis A
- Infectious diarrhea
- Enteric fever (typhoid) and
- Skin infections
Furthermore, we need to understand when proper handwashing is of utmost necessity, even as we navigate through our daily activities, in order to reduce the continual spread of infections.
When should you wash your hands?
Washing your hands as often as possible is just as important as knowing when to do so. There are various scenarios when proper handwashing is of utmost importance, and they include;
- After using the restroom
- After playing outdoors
- After arriving at your home
- After cleaning around the house
- After playing with animals, including family pets
- After visiting or taking care of any sick friends or relatives
- Before making or eating food
- After blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After leaving the hospital premises
- Before feeding babies
The list above highlights the various situations that warrant effective and proper handwashing to prevent the spread of various diseases in our homes, offices, and otherwise. Meanwhile, it is advisable to use warm water (not hot or cold) when you wash your hand; it helps to remove germs better. Again, you can use whatever soap you prefer. While some soaps come in different shapes and colors or fragrances, however, whatever kind that gets you scrubbing is the kind you should use, whether an antibacterial or regular soap.
Steps and duration of handwashing
Understanding how to effectively wash your hands is crucial in the prevention of disease prevalence. There is a technique for handwashing as well as a duration for proper handwashing. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends washing hands for at least 20 seconds before and after various activities highlighted above. Firstly, you will need to wet your hands with warm, tepid running water. You can as well use cold water, however, experts suggest the use of warm or tepid water. Secondly, lather your hands by rubbing them generously with the soap available, including the back of your hands, fingers, and nails. Wash your hands thoroughly and ensure all areas are covered. Thirdly, scrub your hand for at least 15 to 20 seconds, creating enough friction for effective cleanliness and removal of pathogens. Then, ensure you rinse your hands under running water. Lastly, dry your hands with a clean towel and allow them to air dry in order to prevent further contamination of your hands with pathogens.
Remember, it costs very little to wash your hands. In the same vein, it costs a lot to treat germs, diseases, and infections. Do not underestimate the power of hand washing! The few seconds you spend at the sink could save your trips to the doctor’s office.