Hand in Hand: The Many Health Benefits of Proper Hand-Washing
Perhaps one of the easiest, yet most often overlooked, method of preventing the spread of disease is the simple act of hand-washing. You may not realize it, but nearly everything you touch has the potential to contain deadly pathogens that could easily be transferred onto your hands. Then, when you touch your face or scratch your eyes, these pathogens can wreak havoc with your skin, or cause irritation and even disease.
By washing your hands thoroughly and fairly frequently with soap and water, or with an alcohol-based sanitizer, you minimize the risk of sickness and disease by limiting the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes to you face, eyes, nose, or mouth.
Although hand-washing can essentially be done at any time, ideally, it is best to wash your hands before preparing food or eating, treating wounds, and while inserting or removing contact lenses, as there is a real risk of transferring dirt as well as deadly pathogens to the skin, eyes, and nasal cavity, which can result in any number of potential health problems.
It is also best to wash your hands after preparing food, especially raw meat and poultry, after using the toilet or changing a baby’s diaper, after touching an animal or an animal’s toy or leash, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing into your hands, or after handling garbage, household chemicals, soiled shoes, and anything dirty or contaminated.
For proper hand-washing, it is best that you use soap and water. In order to wash your hands properly, follow these simple steps:
- Put both hands under a running faucet, and wet them.
- Turn the faucet off to save water, then apply soap on your hands and lather well.
- Rub your hands fairly vigorously for about 20 seconds, and be sure to scrub all surfaces. This includes the back of your hands, your wrists, in between your fingers and under your fingernails. Be sure to trim your nails in order to prevent dirt from building up underneath.
- Turn faucet back on and rinse well, making sure that no soap residues remain.
- If possible, turn the faucet off with your towel then dry your hands with a clean towel, or with an air dryer.
Always remember that despite what you see or hear on television, antibacterial soaps are no better than regular soap at keeping your hands clean and free from germs. On the other hand, alcohol-based hand sanitizers work well as an acceptable alternative when soap and water are not readily available, as long as the hand sanitizer contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Simply apply enough hand sanitizer to the palm of your hand, then rub your hands together to make sure that the product covers all surfaces, until your hands are dry.
Antimicrobial wipes or towelettes are another alcohol-based alternative. Just make sure that, just like the hand sanitizer, the wipes or towelette contains a high concentration of alcohol in order to kill some of the bacteria. Finally, if you see that your hands are visibly dirty, wash them with soap and water.
Katy A. Limbaugh is an experienced news anchors & hosts of a well-known broadcasting company. She draws her inspiration from respected media like NBC, Fox, and CNN.