washing hands

With flu season is in full swing, we at Healthtap would like to promote awareness about how to effectively promote hand hygiene, in order to reduce the spread of bacteria and infection.

What is National Handwashing Awareness Week?

According to the American Cleaning Institute, the goal of this campaign is to decrease the spread of infectious diseases by educating individuals to practice good handwashing habits within their community.  

This holiday season, whether you are at work, traveling home for the holidays, or already have a bout of flu, good hand hygiene can help protect you and your family from getting or spreading a virus. December, while a joyful time of the year, is also a busy and stressful time for most people. Between the end-of-the-year excitement and the turn in the weather, it’s easy to become fatigued and to compromise your immune system.  For this reason, it’s important to wash your hands on a regular basis to kill bacteria and viruses that may spread topically. 

When and why should you wash your hands?  

Viruses and bacteria that cause disease usually enter our bodies through the eyes, mouth, nose, or urogenital openings, or through wounds that breach the skin barrier. These organisms can spread via the following routes:

  • Airborne transmission: influenza viruses are often  spread through sneezes, coughs, or simply talking
  • Contact: viruses can live for hours on surfaces such as doorknobs, desks and tables.
  • Vehicles: eating contaminated food and water may cause diarrhea related illnesses

People frequently touch their face without even realizing it; sometimes as much as 2000-3000 times a day. Touching contaminated surfaces and then your face can lead to the spread of germs. Germs easily enter the body through the eyes, mouth and nasal passages, where the barrier lining is moist and germs can be easily trapped. 

Increasing awareness about proper handwashing can reduce diarrheal related illnesses and respiratory illnesses such as colds and the flu.  

proper handwashing

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) you should wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching a garbage can

Are hand sanitizers effective?

If soap and water is not easily available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. While hand sanitizers are effective, they do not remove all the germs and are still not as effective as the traditional water and soap concoction.   

What’s the best way to  properly wash your hands?

Here are the five proper handwashing steps according to the CDC to ensure that your hands are properly clean.

  1. Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

Not only does proper hand washing reduce the spread of infection, it can also help the growing fight against antibiotic resistance: one of the most significant widespread medical challenges we face today. By keeping these tips in mind, you and your family can enjoy a happy and healthy holiday season. If you have any concerns or feeling under the weather, you can connect with a HealthTap doctor here. They are available for you 24/7.

Author: Simitha Singh Rambiritch

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