Hand hygiene is a simple, cheap, and effective approach in keeping people healthy and preventing the transmission of infections. Promoting clean hands, whether it’s at work among employees and co-workers, for pupils and staff at school, or at home with friends and family can benefit everyone. In a work environment, whether you work in a classroom, an office, at home, in retail, or anywhere else good hand hygiene can benefit your workers, customers, workplace and community.

When should people wash their hands?

Germs accumulate on your hands with everything you touch throughout the day. Distributing viruses to others in your workplace is extremely easy via the hands, as germs can enter the body through the eyes, nose, and mouth. Although it’s hard to keep your hands completely germ-free, washing them with soap and water on a regular basis can help to reduce the spread of germs, viruses, and other organisms.

Make sure you wash your hands before:

  • Food preparation and consumption.
  • Taking care of a sick individual or treating wounds.
  • Touching a frequently touched item or surface, such as doorknobs, petrol pumps, or shopping carts.
  • Getting into or out of a public place.
  • Putting in or removing contact lenses.

Make sure you wash your hand after:

  • Using the restroom, changing a nappy, or cleaning up after a child who has used the restroom.
  • Being in contact with animals, animal feed, or animal excrement.
  • Sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose.
  • Handling rubbish and recycling.
  • Handling pet food or pet treats.
  • Touching a frequently touched item or surface, such as doorknobs, petrol pumps, or shopping carts.

How to wash your hands properly

To ensure hands are thoroughly cleans, follow the steps on diagram below:

  • Wash palm to palm
  • Back to hands
  • Back to fingers
  • Base to thumbs
  • Fingers interlaced
  • Fingernails
  • Dry thoroughly

How does effective hand washing help to prevent illness?

Hand washing helps to prevent illness and infection spread to others and the best way to eradicate germs and viruses is to wash hands regularly with soap. This helps prevent infection because:

  • People routinely touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without realising it and washing hands effectively helps to prevent cross-infections.
  • Germs from unwashed hands can contaminate meals and beverages during preparation and consumption. Germs can multiply in specific foods or drinks under certain conditions.
  • Germs can be transferred from unwashed hands to other surfaces, such as handrails, table surfaces, or toys, and then to the hands of another person.
  • Handwashing helps to prevent diarrhoea, respiratory infections, as well as skin and eye problems, by removing germs.

Teaching people how to wash their hands effectively helps them and the people around them to stay healthy. Handwashing education can help:

  • Reduce respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by approximately 16-21%
  • Reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhoea by approximately 23-40%
  • Reduce diarrhoea illness in people with weakened immune systems by approximately 58%
  • Reduce schoolchildren’s absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness by approximately 29-57%.

Airdri has recently launched a campaign to promote good hand hygiene amongst children in local schools, find out more here.

The importance of drying hands effectively

It’s not all about just washing your hands though! Not properly drying your hands after washing them may also contribute to the spread of bacteria. People frequently forget to dry their hands after washing them and instead wipe them on their clothes. Hand hygiene is a crucial aspect of infection management, and drying hands after washing is an important part of the process as bacteria multiplies more easily on wet surfaces.

Hand dryers are ideal for high-traffic areas since they eliminate the clutter and waste that used paper towels produce. As there is lower chance of cross-infection from old paper towels, hand dryers can provide a hygienic alternative. Hand dryers are beginning to replace the extensive usage of paper towels in many public locations due to their sanitary benefits.

Overall, handwashing offers significant health benefits and is essential in the fight against viruses and other variants during the Covid-19 pandemic. Adopting this habit can help you protect your health and the health of those around you in a big way.

Sources: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html

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