Health Matters: Washing hands
In today’s column, Dr. Paul talks about one of the simplest ways to protect your health
Common infections such as the flu and the common cold are caused by germs that can spread very easily, especially in preschool and school-age children. These germs, either viruses or bacteria, are tiny and not visible without a microscope. So they can spread “invisibly” from one person to another in several ways:
Direct “hand-to-hand” contact or touch. Indirect contact; for example, if a person unknowingly touches an infected surface like a toy, a telephone, or a door handle and then touches his/her own facial area
Virus droplets are passed through the air, for example by coughing or sneezing.
Despite all of the amazing medical discoveries and advances like vaccination, sanitation and antibiotics, one very simple technique still remains one of the best ways to prevent the spread of infections. That ’s right, hand washing. Countless studies have shown that hand washing is a highly effective way of preventing the spread of bacteria and viruses. Given that we are entering the cold and flu season, I thought I would review the proper way to wash your hands:
- Wet your hands with warm running water.
- Apply liquid or foam soap. Do not use bar soap.
- Rub the soap vigorously into lather over all surfaces of your hands.
- Continue washing for at 15 to 20 seconds in order to remove germs (about the length of the song “Happy Birthday”).
- Pay special attention to your fingertips, the area under your nails, between your fingers, on the back of your hands and the base of your thumbs.
- After 15-20 seconds of cleaning, rinse your hands well under warm running water
- Dry your hands well with a paper towel. Pat them dry, instead of rubbing them, to help prevent chapping.
- Turn off the water tap using the paper towel and then throw it into the garbage.
- Get into the habit of washing your hands before and after preparing, handling, serving or eating food, after any contact with anyone who has an infection, and of course after going to the bathroom.
It is also a good idea to teach children at an early age too. Children often carry and spread infections, so it would be important that they learn to wash their hands as early on as possible. Before they can wash their hands on their own, parents and caregivers should wash their hands for them.
Since I am on the subject of infection prevention, here are a few other tips parents and child caregivers should know:
Children should be taught to cover their mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
Facial tissues should be used for runny noses and to catch sneezes. These should be immediately put into the garbage after each use.
Avoid kissing your child on or around the mouth or face.
Parents and other caregivers should always wash their hands after changing a baby’s diaper.
Hand washing may seem lowtech on this high-tech era, but it is one of the best ways you can protect yourself and your family!
Washing of hands with soap under running water.