Why Handwashing is Effective at Stopping the Spread of Germs

disinfection, handwashing, sanitation, sanitising

Could it really be that simple? Experts say yes.

Handwashing is one of the easiest and most important steps we can take to prevent the spread of germs that cause infectious diseases.

According to researchers in London, an estimated one million deaths per year can be prevented if everyone routinely washed their hands.[1] Washing hands can help remove harmful microorganisms that cause the flu, cold, and stomach bug, as well as many other illnesses.

How Germs Spread

Disease-causing bacteria can be picked up easily and through a variety of ways. You can get germs on your hands as you go about your daily activities, such as:

  • Using the washroom
  • Changing your baby’s nappy
  • Handling a cleaning cloth or rubbish bin
  • Touching a contaminated surface or object
  • Coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • Feeding or playing with your pet
  • Handling raw meat, poultry, or fish as you prepare dinner

You can also spread microbes by simply touching a person, surface, or object without first washing your hands after doing any of the above.

Washing your hands with hand cleaner regularly is a simple yet effective practice that removes microbes from your hands and helps prevent the transmission of illnesses.

When to Wash Your Hands

Whilst it is impossible to keep your hands free of bacteria completely and all of the time, frequent handwashing is helpful at reducing the chances of picking up and spreading germs.

Proper hand hygiene not only involves washing your hands but doing it at the right time, such as after coming into contact with items that are obviously contaminated, such as toilets, pets, and rubbish bins. It is also important to wash your hands after touching surfaces or items frequently touched by multiple people, such as elevator buttons, door handles, ATM keypads, and shopping carts or baskets, to name a few.

However, it is most crucial to wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating
  • Before and after visiting or caring for those who are sick
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • Before and after treating cuts and wounds
  • After going to the toilet
  • After changing a nappy or helping your child go to the toilet
  • After feeding, playing with, or cleaning up after your pet

The above-mentioned is not an exhaustive list, but it gives you an idea for when and how frequently you should be washing your hands to prevent the spread of germs and diseases from one person to another.

How to Properly Wash Your Hands

As with the frequency of handwashing, practicing proper handwashing is also crucial for preventing the transmission of diseases. Follow these easy steps:

  1. Wet your hands thoroughly with running water. Warm or cold water will do.
  2. Apply hand cleaner and lather your hands by rubbing them together. Make sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
  3. Scrub your hands. Do this for at least 20 seconds. Hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice over whilst scrubbing to be sure!
  4. Rinse your hands well under running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel. You can also air dry them.

Using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 62% alcohol in between hand washings is also recommended.

[1] https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/fast_facts.html#two

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