Why washing your hands prevents illness
Simple handwashing is one of your best weapons against disease. Here’s how to do it effectively…
In the battle against disease, prevention is always better than cure. Whether you prevent a minor illness or something more serious, it’s better to take precautions that will help keep you stay safe and healthy rather than suffer an infection.
Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) says washing your hands is ‘probably the most effective contribution you can make to public health’ besides vaccination.
Why is handwashing so important?
Bacteria and viruses spread easily and quickly through touch. If someone with flu covers their nose when sneezing but then simply wipes their hands afterwards, the germs will still be present. These germs can then spread to any surfaces they touch and if someone else touches that surface, they would pick up the germs.
How do I wash my hands effectively?
It’s easy to take handwashing for granted. After all, many of us won’t have been shown how to do it since we were children. Surprisingly, it takes up to 40-60 seconds to wash your hands properly. So what’s the right way?
Step 1: Wet your hands with clean water.
Step 2: Apply enough soap to cover both hands.
Step 3: Rub your hands palm to palm and then in between your fingers. Sing ‘Happy Birthday To You’ twice to make sure you’re washing your hands for long enough.
Step 4: Rinse with clean running water.
Step 5: Dry your hands using a clean towel or paper towel.
Step 6: Turn off the tap with the towel.
Take a look at the World Health Organisation’s guide to handwashing.
When should I wash my hands?
Always wash your hands:
• after using the toilet, blowing your nose and touching someone else or any animals
• before eating or preparing food.
This helps to kill any bacteria on your hands immediately, and reduces the risk of harmful germs spreading further. It’s a simple thing that can make a lot of difference.
What is handrubbing?
This method can be used if you don’t have access to clean water or soap but you do have hand sanitizer. Don’t use this method if you have any visible bodily or other infectious fluids on your hands. Handrubbing should last between 20-30 seconds.
Step 1: Apply a palmful of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Step 2: Rub your hands together palm to palm.
Step 3: Place the palm of one hand over the back of the other. And interlock your fingers. Rub up and down.
Step 4: Now place your hands palm to palm. And interlock your fingers. Rub up and down.
Step 5: Then interlock the back of your fingers to its opposing palm. Rub up and down.
Step 6: Rub each finger and thumb individually with a clasped hand.
Step 7: Wait for your hands to dry.
Take a look at the World Health Organisation’s guide to handrubbing.
3 quick tips for effective handwashing
1. Wash your hands thoroughly with clean water and soap for around 40-60 seconds.
2. Only use hand sanitizer if there is no clean water or soap available, and make sure you rub your hands together thoroughly.
3. Always wash your hands before eating and preparing food.
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• How to prevent coughs, colds and RTIs <link to article>
• How to treat diarrhoea <link to article>
• Fighting back against Ebola <link to article>
• How to protect yourself from MRSA <link to article>
• How to tackle typhoid <link to article>