As much as we use our hands on a day-to-day basis, it should come as no surprise that our hands are some of the largest transmitters of germs and infectious diseases out there. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most important thing we can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illnesses around is to clean our hands. Every year, both on October 15 and the whole month of December, there are hand washing awareness initiatives dedicated to educating people on the importance of hand hygiene. However, this education really shouldn't be limited to one day, week or month. Hand hygiene is something that should be practiced all the time: when preparing food, before meals, after using the restroom or handling garbage, after shaking hands or rubbing your nose, after talking on the phone or using a computer keyboard/mouse, even after turning a doorknob. The truth is, germs live everywhere and your hands should be washed all the time. Here are a few reminders that will keep you fresh and clean:
So How Do I Really Wash?
- Wash with soap and warm water.
- Lather your hands, wrists, palms, back of hands, fingers and nails and scrub for 20 seconds (The amount of time it takes to sing Old MacDonald Had a Farm or the Happy Birthday song twice!)
- Rinse and dry with a clean towel.
What's The Big Deal?
Infectious diseases are the leading cause of illness and death worldwide.
Yes, you read correctly. And they also happen to be the third leading cause of death in the United States. According to the PPPHW, "The simple act of washing hands with soap can significantly cut the risk of diarrhea (from 30 percent to 50 percent, Fewtrell et al., 2005) and that of respiratory tract infection (from 21 percent to 45 percent, Curtis and Cairncross, 2003). UNICEF estimates that diarrhea kills one child every 30 seconds. Scientific research shows that handwashing with soap prevents disease in a more straightforward and cost-effective way than any single vaccine."
Why Hand Washing?
One gram of human feces has over 10 million viruses in it and one million bacteria. These pathogens are easily transmitted by an infected host (hands, for one) the moment you touch something, be it your nose, your eye, the table, or your food. Frequent hand washing, therefore, is criticial to stopping the transmission of these germs and reducing the risk of infections in addition to the cross contaminations of these pathogens in food, on surfaces and to others. It's the most affordable, easily acted upon, most readily available "vaccine" out there.
Are Hand Sanitizers and Wipes Really Effective?
Hand sanitizers and disinfecting wipes are an easy and effective way to kill germs on your hands and stop them in their tracks. They are especially useful when located in places where people are on-the-go and soap and water isn't available. Remember too that though they're effective in killing germs, they aren't designed to remove dirt or grime off your hands so wash with soap and warm water whenever possible.
Is Antibacterial Soap More Effective Than Regular Soap?
If you follow the 3 steps above, lathering and scrubbing for at least twenty seconds with soap and warm water, all soap should do the job about equally for non-healthcare settings. Antibacterial soap is essentially normal soap with antimicrobial ingredients added to it but the FDA says there is "no evidence" that antimicrobial soap keeps people healthier than its regular counterpart.