Saturday, August 22, 2009

How and When to Wash Your Hands?

Hand washing is a simple habit, something most people do without thinking. Yet hand washing, when done properly, is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick. Infectious diseases that are commonly spread through hand-to-hand contact include the common cold, flu and several gastrointestinal disorders, such as infectious diarrhea. While most people will get over a cold, the flu can be much more serious. Some people with the flu, particularly older adults and people with chronic medical problems, can develop pneumonia.

How to wash your hands correctly?

Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps when you want to take care of your hands and there's a right way to wash your hands. A splash of water and a drop or two of soap won't do the trick. Follow these simple steps to keep your hands clean:

  • Use warm water (not cold or hot).
  • Use whatever soap you like. Antibacterial soaps are popular but regular soap works fine. If you suspect that your hands have come into contact with someone with an infection, think about using an alcohol hand sanitizer.
  • Rub your hands together vigorously and scrub all surfaces: Lather up on both sides of your hands, your wrists, between your fingers, and around your nails. Continue rubbing your hands for 20 seconds.
  • Rinse well under warm running water and pat dry with a clean towel preferably paper towel.
  • In public restrooms, consider using a paper towel to flush the toilet and open the door because toilet and door handles harbor germs. Throw the towel away after you leave.

To prevent chapping or dry skin, use a mild soap with warm water, pat rather than rub hands dry, and apply a moisturizing lotion liberally afterwards.

What are alcohol rubs/gels/rinses?

Alcohol rubs/gels/rinses are excellent hand antiseptics, provided they contain more than 60% alcohol. They are widely used in the health care settings, or in situations where running water is not available. Alcohol-based hand rubs significantly reduce the number of germs on skin and are fast acting.

Apply enough antiseptic to make about the size of a quarter onto your hands, enough when you rub your hands together to cover all areas of your hands, including under your nails. Use a rubbing motion to evenly distribute the antiseptic product until your hands feel dry. Follow the steps below:

  • Remove hand and arm jewellery.
  • Ensure hands are visibly clean (if soiled, follow hand washing steps).
  • Apply between 1 to 2 full pumps of product, or squirt a loonie-sized amount, onto one palm.
  • Spread product over all surfaces of hand, concentrating on finger tips, between fingers, back of hands, and base of thumbs.
  • Rub hands until product is dry. This will take a minimum of 15 to 20 seconds if sufficient product is used.

When should you wash your hands?

Be sure to wash your hands:

  • Before preparing or eating food.
  • After going to the bathroom.
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has gone to the bathroom.
  • Before and after tending to someone who is sick.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • After handling an animal or animal waste.
  • After handling garbage.
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound.

What are some mistakes you should avoid regarding hand washing?

  • Don't use a single damp cloth to wash a group of people's hands.
  • Don't use a standing basin of water to rinse hands.
  • Don't use a common hand towel. Always use disposable towels in day care or food preparation settings.
  • Don't use sponges or non-disposable cleaning cloths. Remember that germs thrive on moist surfaces.

Hand washing is an old and necessary ritual. Science and medicine have provided a clear understanding of what goes wrong when good hand washing routines are omitted. Now, more than ever, thorough and frequent hand washing is imperative for living a good and healthy life. Keep it that way!

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