We all wash our hands before preparing food, after going to the bathroom, and before going to bed, right? Wrong!
Although germs are found on everyday objects, statistics show that less than five out of 10 people wash their hands more than twice per day.
Germs are found most commonly on:
• Chopping boards.
• Photocopy machines.
• Shopping carts.
• Toilets and even your toothbrush.
Up to 50 000 types of bacteria are transmitted by hand and the more things you touch, the more you spread.
Washing your hands with soap and water is a simple healthy habit that removes soil, dirt, and germs, and is the single most important way to prevent the spread of disease.
Handwashing is one of the best ways to reduce the number of germs on them, and protect yourself, your family, and others from getting sick. The key is to wash and dry your hands properly to remove dirt and germs.
Having clean hands is important because people often use their hands to touch their eyes, nose, and mouth. This gives germs, like the flu virus, access to the inside of the body where they can cause illness, and can also spread skin and eye infections.
The Global Handwashing Day, on October 15 each year, is a worldwide campaign to raise awareness of handwashing with soap as a key factor in disease prevention.
But the real reason you should be washing your hands is to prevent sepsis. Infections are common in clinics and hospitals and are a risk factor for developing sepsis.
Sepsis is estimated to affect more than 30-million patients worldwide. It is a life-threatening infection and can lead to septic shock, organ failure and death.
If you’re in a hospital, health care centre or nursing home, one way to protect your health is to ask nurses and doctors to wash their hands before they touch you.
Benefits of washing your hands
With the winter season upon us, the best things you can do to prevent catching colds or flu is wash your hands.
Not only will it help keep you healthy, it will help prevent the spread of infectious diseases to others.
Washing your hands with soap and water lowers the risk of getting diarrhoea and intestinal infections.
• Prevents bacterial and viral eye infections such as conjunctivitis and pink eye.
• Lowers the risk of respiratory infections, as the germs that cause infections are commonly found on surfaces and hands.
• Kills the germs that cause pneumonia, hepatitis A, gastroenteritis, intestinal diseases, and stomach infections.
Regular hand washing is important, especially:
• Before eating.
• Before feeding a child.
• After using the toilet.
• After handling garbage.
• After working in the garden or playing outside.
• Before, during and after preparing food.
• Between handling raw and cooked food.
• After blowing your nose or sneezing, and using a tissue or handkerchief.
• Before and after visiting or caring for sick family members.
• Before and after treating a wound or cut.
• After changing a baby’s nappies.
• After smoking.
• After touching animals or handling pet food or animal faeces.
• When your hands are visibly dirty.
• After touching anything that may be soiled or be contaminated with germs.
How you should wash your hands
Wash your hands regularly with plain, mild soap and water. Use clean, warm running water, instead of a basin of standing water, to wet your hands while rubbing them with soap.
Remove any jewellery such as rings and watches, and wet your hands. Add regular, gentle soap, antibacterial soap is unnecessary for effective hand hygiene, but liquid soap is better than bar soap and rub your hands together for at least 20 seconds.
Be sure to lather the front and back of the hands and between the fingers. Wash the wrists as well as under your fingernails.
Rinse your hands well under clear running water to remove the soap, dirt, and germs.
Wipe and dry your hands gently with a disposable paper towel or a clean towel.
Moisturise after washing as dry, chapped skin is even more vulnerable to infection.
Washing your hands is the best way to stop germs from spreading, and it’s important to remember that your skin is your primary defence against bacteria.
Proper hand washing and drying is the most effective method of preventing the spread of disease, as it removes germs that can be spread to others.
Because you can’t wear gloves all day, be sure to wash your hands so those germs don’t get a chance to make you or someone else sick.
• Information courtesy of qualified Therapeutic Massage Therapist and member of the SA Natural Health Practitioners Board (SANHPB) Zelda Fourie.