December 1st to Dec. 7th is recognized as “National Handwashing Awareness Week,” and serves as a critical reminder to continue to be proactive in reducing the level of bacteria and germs you may encounter throughout your life. When speaking with your patients this week, take a moment to remind them of the importance of routinely handwashing.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), if everyone routinely washed their hands, we would prevent 1 million deaths per year (Facts, 2016). In relation to gastrointestinal diseases, washing your hands can drastically reduce the risk of stomach illnesses, and Streptococcal Pharyngitis, also known as strep throat. Read CDCs article here about the science of handwashing as well!
Properly washing your hands can also reduce to risk of being infected with COVID-19. While the disease may not be as prevalent as it was just a year ago, the threat remains just as dangerous. Remind your patients of the proper technique for washing their hands by following the below five steps recommended by the CDC (CDC, 2021):
- Wet your hands with clean running water (cold or warm). Turn off water and apply soap.
- Lather your hands thoroughly, including in between fingers and backs of hands.
- Scrub for at least 30 seconds. Hum “Happy Birthday” chorus twice.
- Rinse your hands under running water.
- Dry your hands using a towel or air dryer.
When scrubbing your hands be careful not to scrub too vigorously or too often. This can lead to damaged skin and cuts that provide areas for bacteria to grow. Harvard Health Publishing also recommends using hand lotion, especially in winter months and cold weather, to avoid cracking and damaging to your skin. Lastly, keep your fingernails short, as bacteria can easily grow in the area beneath the fingernail.
Of course, not every situation will provide you the ability to fully wash your hands. In these scenarios, you can opt for an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The CDC recommends that the sanitizer contain at least 60-percent alcohol by volume.
While hand sanitizer is effective at killing germs, it’s not as thorough a cleaning in comparison to traditional hand washing. The CDC states that hand sanitizer fails to remove dangerous chemicals, such as pesticides and heavy metals. Hand sanitizer also struggles to remove certain types of viruses and bacteria that can be eliminated through regular hand washing techniques.
To maximize the cleanliness of your hands, avoid doing the following:
- Touching your mask
- Making contact your eyes, nose, mouth
- Touching surfaces commonly touched by others, such as door handles and gas pumps.
Washing your hands properly will not only benefit you, but your loved ones and those around you. You will limit the spread of common bacteria, germs, and virus’, including COVID-19. If you don’t have access to way to properly wash your hands, opt for hand sanitizer.