Healthy Living: Hand Hygiene

Updated 3 years ago

By- Dr. Amy MoviusRespiratory illness season (including influenza) is in full swing AND there’s a nasty stomach flu “going around”.  I spent most of last night at the hospital attending to such patients while sincerely hoping not to acquire or spread these infections further.  This involves a lot of hand washing and sanitizing.  What hand washing, as a subject, lacks in sensationalism it makes up for in usefulness. Whether talking about the common cold or more serious infections, it is often the single most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick.  Take a moment to think about everything you’ve touched in the past hour, much less the past day.  Infection causing germs can be transferred to your hands by everything you touch, which can then be transferred into your body by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.  Likewise, if you are carrying an infection – knowingly or not – it can be spread to other people in the same manner. As a whole, we are not as diligent at hand washing as we think we are.  Take after using the bathroom, for instance.  One study found that although 91% adults surveyed reported always washing their hands after using public bathrooms only 83% – or 4 out of 5 – were directly observed to do so.  In a study of middle and high school students only 58% of girls and 48% of boys cleaned their hands after using the school bathroom.   People admit to hand washing even less at home after using their own bathrooms despite the fact they are still bathrooms.  Only 32% people surveyed reported washing their hands after covering a sneeze or cough.   Below is a reminder list for when you should wash your hands.  1.      After using the bathroom (or changing a diaper).2.      After blowing your nose or coughing.3.      Before touching food (eating, serving, preparing).4.      After touching animals (including pets).5.      After outdoor activities.6.      Before and after visiting anyone who’s sick: think about using an alcohol sanitizer here as well.7.      Any other time your hands are dirty. Below is the proper hand washing technique.   1.      Use soap (any type is fine) and warm water.2.      Be thorough – wash hands, fingers, nails, wrists – front and back.3.      Wash at least 15 seconds (one round of “Happy Birthday”).4.      After rinsing well, pat dry with a clean towel.5.      Use paper towels to turn faucets and door handles in public bathrooms. Frequent hand washing can cause skin to become chapped or dry.  If you have this problem you still need to wash diligently but pick a mild soap and generously moisturize after each washing.  If there isn’t a place to wash, waterless hand soaps or scrubs are a good alternative to keep nearby. Please follow these guidelines to protect yourself and those around you.   When needed, gently remind others to do so as well. Reference: www.kidshealth.org


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