Handwashing has always been touted as being one of the best ways to help prevent the spread of illness, but are you doing it properly? What about those around you? A little bit of soap and water touching your hands won’t be enough, and with potentially dangerous illnesses like the flu spreading around, it’s important to wash hands correctly often and encourage others to do the same. Take the time to educate yourself and help bring awareness during National Handwashing Awareness Week December 1-7, 2019.

Why is Handwashing so Important?

Throughout the day, we touch all kinds of surfaces that have been touched by others, and we have no way of knowing what germs those people – or we – may be carrying. Winter especially brings some potentially dangerous illnesses, including the flu, adeno virus, RSV, bronchiolitis, pneumonia, Streptococcus, and more. While other preventative measures should also be taken, like annual vaccinations, simply washing your hands properly can prevent these viruses from entering your body at all, and help keep you from spreading the virus to others.

Proper Handwashing Technique

Washing your hands seems like a simple task, but must be done correctly for optimal effectiveness. Following these steps will ensure your hands are the cleanest they can be:

  • Using warm or cold clean, running water, wet your hands and turn off the tap before applying soap.
  • Rub hands together, lathering the soap, and be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between the fingers, and under the nails.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds – about the length of time to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
  • Turn the water back on and rinse well under the running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or opt to air dry.

If you find yourself in a situation that soap and water aren’t readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol. These are not as effective as proper handwashing, but can help when needed.

Be sure to wash your hands often and under specific circumstances, including:

  • Before, during, and after food preparation
  • Before eating
  • Before and after caring for an individual who has been vomiting or has diarrhea
  • Before and after addressing a cut or other wound
  • After using the restroom, changing a diaper, or cleaning a child who has used the restroom
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, an animal’s food (including pet food or treats), or their waste
  • After touching garbage

On top of proper handwashing, you will also want to practice healthy habits to keep germs from entering your body, or spreading to others. If you need to cough or sneeze, do so into your arm rather than into your hands. Also, make a conscious effort to keep your hands and fingers away from what is known as the “T zone” of the face – do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth as those are the main entry points into the body for germs.

Promote Handwashing Awareness

Preventing the spread of illness takes cooperation from everyone, so helping others learn about proper handwashing can help keep everyone healthier. At home, teach children and family how to properly wash hands and frequently remind one another to wash throughout the day. If you have a business or work in an office, post flyers in restrooms and common areas to encourage employees and coworkers to use proper handwashing. You don’t have to work in the food industry for handwashing to be important for safety!

Even with proper handwashing technique, it may still be possible to come down with an illness. If you or a loved one has gotten sick and could use some relief, visit the Decatur County Memorial Hospital Well Clinic. We accept walk-ins during normal business hours to provide you with non-emergency care when you need it most.