Upto 80% of all infectious diseases spread through hand-to-hand contact. This means that hand washing is the simplest and most effective way to prevent the spread of contagious infections and disease. While common illnesses such as flu, viral fever, cough and colds are easily preventable by taking this simple precaution, most people are unaware that washing your hands properly and effectively can help ward against much more serious and even potentially fatal diseases and germs. Hand-washing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections such as influenza, strep throat, rhino-viruses, whooping cough by 16%. Further, studies estimate that the simple act of washing one’s hands with soap and water could potentially reduce diarrhoeal disease-related deaths to half it’s current total. Despite this children, particularly in developing and less developed countries, are not taught the correct methods of maintaining hand hygiene and easily preventable diseases continue to spread at a rapid rate.
Studies estimate that approximately 95% adults don’t wash their hands thoroughly after using the bathroom. This is particularly hazardous as faecal matter from people or animals is home to an astonishing number of germs. A single gram of human faeces can contain upto one trillion germs. Improper or lack of hand washing in this situation results in transmissions of harmful microbes and bacteria through the “faecal-oral” route. Illnesses commonly spread through this route include Cholera, dysentery, typhoid, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Poliovirus, Rotavirus and Tapeworm among several others. Improper hand washing practices after using the bathroom is unfortunately extremely common and can lead to the spreading of such germs and diseases in various places of interaction from the workplace to school or college environments.
Learning how to wash your hands the correct way is extremely simple and takes only a few minutes to complete thoroughly. The commonly approved method advised by doctors and health organisations comprises of 5 basic steps.
- Wet- The first step is to wet your hands, making sure they’re completely doused in clean running water.
- Lather- Apply the soap and rub your hands together to create lather. Make sure to lather in between, under your nails and over the back of your hands.
- Scrub- Continue to scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. This is an important part of the process that most people tend to bypass.
- Rinse- Rinse the soap off your hands once again under clean running water. Clean all the soap from under your nails or between your fingers.
- Dry- Dry your hands well using a clean towel, handkerchief or allow them to dry with exposure to the air.
While the method given above is undoubtedly the most effective and therefore the ideal way to maintain hand hygiene, unfortunately in many situations and many parts of the world access to clean running water may be limited. In these circumstances using an alcohol-based hand sanitizes that contains at least 60% alcohol is the next best alternative.