The importance of washing your hands
Washing your hands with soap and water is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spreading of viruses and other infectious diseases such as: colds, the flu and salmonella. A proper hand wash takes only 15 seconds to one minute. However, this negligible amount of time can have a significant impact in the upkeep of our personal health, as well as the health of the people we interact with.
It’s easy to forget that throughout the course of a day our hands touch many potentially contaminated objects such as: door knobs, household surfaces, bathroom faucets, banknotes and more. We can pick up germs from any of these, and if we don’t wash our hands then it’s easy to get sick by touching our mouths, eyes and noses. And the germs can also be transmitted to other people when we interact with them. Handwashing is especially important in environments where people have underdeveloped or weakened immune systems, such as child care facilities, hospitals or homes for the elderly.
When is it appropriate to wash your hands?
- Before you prepare food
- Before eating
- After using the lavatory
- After taking the rubbish out
- After smoking
- After blowing your nose
- After playing with your pet
- Before and after interacting with or caring for someone who is unwell
- Before and after changing nappies
- Before and after treating a wound
Some of the most common viruses and infections that can be contracted as a result of improper or infrequent handwashing are as follows:
Salmonella is a type of bacteria that can be contracted by touching or eating infected foods, particularly meat and poultry. Symptoms of salmonella food poisoning include: diarrhoea, headaches, a high temperature and upset stomach. By making sure that all your food is properly cooked and by adhering to basic cleanliness when preparing the food (such as washing your hands before cooking and eating), the chances of contracting salmonella will be significantly reduced.
Cold and flu germs can easily be spread from person to person, so it’s essential that you wash your hands regularly to avoid this. While colds and flu germs are often spread through the air, these illnesses can also be contracted by touching contaminated objects. While the common cold is unpleasant, catching the flu can be very dangerous, and is life threatening in some cases. Wash your hands regularly to prevent flu germs from spreading, especially if you find yourself in close proximity with an infected person.
A full list of the unpleasant illnesses that can come as a result of poor hand hygiene can be found here.
The proper procedure for washing your hands
- Turn on the tap and wet your hands with warm or cold water
- Apply soap to your hands and rub them together thoroughly to create a lather
- Start scrubbing – rub your palms together, then run your palms over the backs of your hand
- Don’t forget the rub under your nails, your fingers and the spaces between your fingers
- Rinse your hands until they are squeaky clean
- Dry your hands with a towel
When choosing a soap, it doesn’t have to be a bar – liquid and powdered soap are equally as effective in protecting you from germs. Likewise, antibacterial soaps are also available but are by no means a necessity for germ prevention in the everyday household.
[Photo by 24acorns]