We’re continually touching our surroundings, and that’s something we can’t avoid doing. From touching door handles, light switches, kettles, chairs, tables, toilet handles and taps, to preparing and eating our food, our hands come into contact with every surface of our homes and our surroundings. Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to prevent sickness through disease and to reduce the risk of spreading germs to others. Hand washing, therefore, should be an essential part of our daily hygiene.
Why do we need to wash our hands? Our hands are an essential link in the chain of transmission. Most colds, flu’s and viruses are transmitted through the air in droplets propelled by sneezes and coughs. These droplets can then land in the nose, mouth, or eyes of someone nearby, or may even be breathed in by the person. These droplets may also land on the surrounding surfaces and can be picked up on the surface of the skin and transferred when a person then touches their nose, mouth or eyes.
Which soap? The combination of soap and water helps remove these germs from our hands. Research shows that there’s no added health benefit of using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients compared with using plain soap. Hand washing is a standard flu-prevention recommendation, and health officials are putting particular emphasis on hand washing now because of COVID-19.
Why lather? Lathering your hands creates a scrubbing motion. The friction caused by this helps lift dirt, grease, and microbes from the skin. Bacteria are present on all areas of the hand, especially so under the nails, so the entire hand should be lathered well with soap and scrubbed.
Why wash for 20 seconds? Studies have shown that washing your hands for 15 to 30 seconds helps remove more germs than washing for shorter periods.
Why rinse in running water? The soap and friction help lift the dirt, grease and microbes from the skin and rinsing your hands under running water helps wash these away, leaving your skin clean. Doing so also helps reduce irritation from using soap.
What’s the importance of hand drying? Bacteria can be transferred more quickly from wet hands. Therefore, using a clean towel or air drying hands is highly recommended.
Is there a recommended way to cough or sneeze? Yes, there is. Avoid coughing or sneezing into your hands. Either, use a tissue and bin it immediately or cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm. This prevents the droplets from being propelled into the environment and entering the nose, mouth, or eyes of anyone nearby or landing on any nearby surfaces. Either way, it’s crucial that you wash your hands after you’ve coughed or sneezed.
Click here for a link to a fantastic YouTube video by Tom Fletcher, teaching children (and adults) what happens to bugs when you use soap.