Handwashing: Why it's important and how to do it correctly
Why is handwashing important?
Washing your hands is something that most people do without thinking, as part of their daily routines. However, did you know that regular handwashing is one of the best ways to remove germs from your hands? Practising effective hand washing is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and others around you from illnesses like the common cold and food poisoning. Bacteria and viruses can live on our hands for hours without us realising they’re there, which is why it is so important to wash your hands regularly and well.
When should I wash my hands?
Germs are good at hiding on your hands because they are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye. Therefore, you should wash your hands regularly throughout the day, even if they appear to be visibly clean. There are also some key points throughout the day when you should always remember to wash your hands! These include:
In the bathroom:
After using the toilet, or changing a nappy.
Before and after caring for someone who is unwell.
After sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose.
In the kitchen:
Before prepping, eating, or touching any food.
Before and after preparing raw meat.
After emptying a bin or touching rubbish.
In the garden:
After touching an animal, its food or waste (even if it is a pet!)
After spending time in the garden, or outdoors.
How should I wash my hands?
To be able to wash your hands correctly all you require is soap and warm water. Washing your hands is quick, easy, and the best way to prevent the catching and spread of some illnesses. Handwashing can be split into five steps to help you ensure you do an effective hand wash every time: Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry.
Step 1: Use warm running water to wet your hands thoroughly, then remove them from the water.
Step 2: Apply plenty of soap to your hands, and lather the soap between your hands by rubbing them together.
Step 3: Scrub your hands using the soap lather to entirely cover both of your hands. Scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers and thumbs, and under your nails. This is the longest step and should take at least 20 seconds. Try singing “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice, as this lasts the correct amount of time to wash your hands.
Step 4: Now rinse your hands under the clean running water.
Step 5: Dry off your hands. This can be using a clean towel, disposable towel or air-dried.
What should I do if I don’t have access to soap and water?
In some circumstances, you may find yourself wanting to wash your hands but with no access to soap and water. If this is the case, an alcohol-based hand sanitiser is your best alternative until you can find somewhere to wash your hands. They can be purchased in most supermarkets/chemists and are small enough to be carried in your bag or pocket until needed. When selecting a hand sanitiser, purchase one which has an alcohol content of greater than 60%. Using hand sanitiser is simple and easy, apply the gel to the palm of one hand and rub your hands together as in Step 3 above, until your hands are dry.
You may have some more questions around hand hygiene, or maybe there was something we missed that you’d like to know more about. Our friendly team at Vaila Health are always happy to answer any questions you may have. Pop us a message on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.