All About Hand Hygiene

Written by Michele Wheat

Washing hands may seem like an activity that people perform throughout the day with little consequence. While simple and basic to do, hand hygiene is an important way to prevent the spread of illness. Antibiotics can help cure some illnesses, but there are other viruses that don't respond to antibiotic medicine. Often, catching a cold or the flu will involve illness that your body will need to fight until you get well again. Washing hands throughout the day can help people remain healthier, and it can help minimize the spread of germs to other people. To ensure effective hand hygiene, people must follow specific guidelines.

For the best hygiene, people must know when and how to wash their hands. Several specific situations occur throughout the day that require clean hands. Anytime you will touch food, whether preparing it, serving it, or eating it, wash your hands before proceeding. If you must care for someone who is sick or hurt, wash your hands before and after the process. After using the toilet or assisting a child with the toilet or a diaper, wash hands thoroughly. Hand-washing is also necessary after touching garbage; touching an animal; and sneezing, coughing, or blowing the nose.

To wash hands effectively, moisten them under running water. Both warm and cold water are effective for hand-washing and killing germs. Turn the faucet off after wetting hands to conserve water. Apply enough soap to hands to enable you to work up a sufficient lather. Spread the lather over palms, backs of hands, in between fingers, and under fingernails to kill all germs. Continue scrubbing hands for at least 20 seconds. Some people like to sing or hum a short song to ensure that they lather for a sufficient time. Turn the water on again and rinse hands thoroughly. Turn off the water, and dry hands with a clean towel. Air-drying is another option for drying hands.

Germs are invisible, but they accumulate quickly on hands when touching various surfaces. Germs hide in many places. Some of the most prevalent places for germ contamination include the kitchen sink, garbage cans, the refrigerator, door knobs, hand rails, shopping cart handles, light switches, toys, remote controls, and pencils. When you come into contact with germs, you might spread them to other surfaces if you do not wash them from your hands. You could pass them to another person by shaking hands or touching someone. You could also allow germs to enter your own body if you touch your eyes, mouth, nose, or ears with germs on your hands. For these reasons, frequent hand-washing is an effective way to reduce the spread of germs.