When & Why is it important to wash hands - Healthians

Why wash our hands?

handwashing techniques

Contributed by- Dr. Pooja Chaudhary

Cleanliness is next to Godliness ! What better way to stay clean than hand washing?

Did you know that keeping our hands clean is the simplest yet the most effective step to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others? Studies have proven that most of the communicable diseases spread via touch. The spread of many diseases and conditions can hence be controlled by washing hands with soap and clean, running water. This makes hand washing the most cost effective solution to stop the spread of diseases.

The data mentioned below will highlight the importance of hand washing

  • Touching food with contaminated hands spreads food borne illnesses like Salmonella, E. coli, Staph, and diarrheal infection.
  • According to a recent study by UNICEF, every year, 1.4 million children globally do not live to celebrate their fifth birthday because of diarrhea and pneumonia.
  • According to figures of the Health Ministry, in India 13 children under the age of 5 succumb to diarrhea every hour.
  • 50% of the infections acquired in healthcare settings can be avoided by proper sanitation and hand washing.
  • Touching our face with contaminated hands spreads illnesses like pneumonia, common cold, and flu.
  • Proper hand washing can reduce the rate of diarrhea (the second most common cause of childhood death).
  • Proper hand washing can reduce the rate of respiratory infections by 30%  as per UNICEF.
  • Hand washing with soap can prevent many of the 272 million yearly schooldays lost to diarrheal disease.


Importance of hand wash in infection control

Hand wash is the primary weapon in infection control. The aim is to prevent the spread of infection and providing a safe environment for all patients, regardless of all the settings. Basic sanitary habits such as hand washing can ensure this.

Hand washing is important as it removes the microorganisms from the hands and prevents their possible transfer. These microorganisms can survive and even multiply on human hands, creating the opportunity to infect the host and others as well. Hand washing is a simple yet effective way of reducing the number of transient organisms present on the skin surface.


The relation between infection and hand hygiene

These facts about the growth of infection and our hands may surprise you.

  • Most of the bacteria in our hands are present in our fingertips and also our nails.
  • Number of bacteria present on our fingertips mostly doubles after the use of bathroom.
  • Most of the time people only wash the palms and miss everything else. Proper scrubbing of the entire hand is important.
  • The bacteria count is higher on the dominant hand. That is the right-handed people wash their left hand more carefully as compared to their right hand and vice versa.
  • Proper drying of hands is very important as wet hands can attract germs due to the moisture.


Do keep these in mind next time  you wash your hands!


 Hand washing technique

Is there a technique? Washing hand is something which one practices from the time a child learns to hold things. For many it becomes an involuntary reaction to start or end certain things, like eating food, cooking, using washroom etc. But is that enough to guard you from all diseases and infections? Sadly No!

Doctors recommended a minimum of 20 seconds of vigorous rubbing together of soap lathered hands. This can be followed by thorough rinsing under a stream of fresh water.

Following is a step wise technique of washing hands to be followed by all.

  • Wet hands with running water, either warm or cold.
  • Use liquid, bar or powder soap.
  • Create lather.
  • Try to rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds. It is important to scrub all the surfaces; this includes the back of your hands, wrists, between your fingers and even under your fingernails.
  • Rinse properly.
  • Dry your hands completely with a clean or towel or air dryer.


When is it important to wash hands?

Studies conducted by Public Health Association of India reveal that

  • Only 53% of people in our country wash their hands after defecation
  • 38% wash hands before eating
  • 30% before preparing food

This is surely not enough! For a healthy life it is important to know when is it necessary to wash our hands:

Remember to always wash your hands before:

  • Before cooking
  • Before having your food
  • Treating wounds, giving medicine, or caring for a sick or injured person
  • Inserting or removing contact lenses


Remember to always wash your hands after:

  • After cooking, especially raw meat or poultry
  • Using the toilet or changing a diaper
  • Touching an animal or animal toys, leashes or waste
  • Blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing into your hands
  • Treating wounds or caring for a sick or injured person
  • Handling garbage, household or garden chemicals, or anything that could be contaminated, like cleaning cloth or soiled shoes

Other than this we should also clean our hands whenever they look or feel dirty.

Hand washing and caring goes together. Remember to teach, preach and practise it!

Source: UNICEF, National Health portal, Huffington post.


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