Hand hygiene is a fundamental yet powerful practice to prevent the spread of germs and maintain personal health. This article dives into the specifics of practicing proper hand hygiene, an essential routine that is often overlooked or done incorrectly.
The cornerstone of hand hygiene is proper handwashing. The process should begin by wetting hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), followed by applying soap. The temperature of the water doesn’t affect germ removal but can impact the comfort of the washing experience. Once soap is applied, the hands should be lathered by rubbing them together. It’s important to cover all surfaces of the hands, including the backs, between the fingers, and under the nails. This lathering process should be thorough, taking at least 20 seconds. A helpful way to time this is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
Scrubbing hands rigorously helps dislodge and remove germs and dirt. After scrubbing, rinse hands well under clean, running water. It’s crucial to rinse all soap off, as residues can cause skin irritation. The final step is drying hands, ideally with a clean towel or air dryer. Drying is an important step because germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands.
When soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good alternative. The sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol to be effective against most germs. To use, apply the product to the palm of one hand and rub the product all over the surfaces of the hands until they are dry. The rubbing process should take about 20 seconds. However, sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs, and hands should be washed with soap and water as soon as it’s available.
Hand hygiene should be practiced frequently, especially at crucial times: before, during, and after preparing food; before eating; before and after caring for someone who is sick; before and after treating a cut or wound; after using the toilet; after changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet; after blowing one’s nose, coughing, or sneezing; after touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste; after handling pet food or pet treats; and after touching garbage.
It’s also important to be mindful of nail hygiene. Germs can accumulate under the nails, so keeping nails trimmed and clean is part of effective hand hygiene. Using a nail brush can be particularly effective in removing dirt and germs from under the nails.
In addition to regular handwashing, it’s important to avoid touching the face with unwashed hands. This reduces the chance of transferring germs from the hands to the eyes, nose, or mouth, which are common entry points for germs into the body.
Proper hand hygiene also extends to the care of handwashing supplies. Soap dispensers, hand towels, and hand dryers should be kept clean and functional. In public restrooms, using a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door can help avoid recontaminating hands.
In conclusion, proper hand hygiene is a simple yet effective way to protect oneself and others from a wide range of infections. Regular and thorough handwashing, using hand sanitizer when necessary, and being mindful of hand hygiene practices in daily activities are key to mastering the art of clean hands. By making hand hygiene a habitual practice, it becomes a powerful tool in maintaining personal health and well-being.