Hand washing: How and Why?

With the Covid-19 infections rising alarmingly, there are aggressive campaigns across the world for hand washing as a precaution. But, many do not know how it should be done and why it is important.

Why the hand washing?

• Coronaviruses are encased in a lipid envelope — basically, a layer of fat. Soap can break that fat apart and make the virus unable to infect you.

• The second thing soap does is mechanical. It makes skin slippery so that with enough rubbing, we can pry germs off and rinse them away.

How casually we do it?

• A 2013 study had trained observers discreetly watch more than 3,700 people wash their hands. It found that only about 5% of them followed all the rules.
• About one in four people just wet their hands without using soap — a move hygiene researchers call the “splash and dash.”
• About one in 10 didn’t wash at all after a trip to the restroom. The most common shortcoming for most people was time. Only 5% spent more than 15 seconds washing, rubbing, and rinsing their hands.

Historical Evidence:

• A 2017 study that compared liquid and foam soaps from the same brand found that washing with foam didn’t significantly reduce bacteria on the hands of people who were in the study, while washing with a liquid soap did.

• One study estimates that if everyone did it regularly, we could save a million lives each year. What’s more, when you don’t wash your hands, problems can come up.
• A 2011 study from researchers at the London School of Tropical Hygiene found that washing with water alone reduced bacteria on hands to about one-quarter of their prewash state. Washing with soap and water brought bacterial counts down to about 8% of where they were before washing.

• Each year, the flu costs Americans about 17 million missed workdays. That translates to $7 billion a year in sick days and undone work. One of the ways you can avoid getting the flu is to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

• Americans spend about $4.6 billion each year fighting the flu. That amount includes doctor visits, hospital stays, and medicine. So washing your hands could also help save you money.

How to Wash Your Hands

The procedure is:

• Water
• Lather
• Scrub for at least 20 seconds
• Rinse
• Dry

How long should you scrub your hands?
• At least 20 seconds. As you’ve probably heard, that’s the same amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday to You” twice. If you’re tired of that one, Twitter has some great suggestions for others.

When to Wash?

• Before, during, and after food prep
• Before eating
• Before and after tending to someone who’s sick
• Before and after treating a cut or other wound
• After going to the bathroom
• After changing diapers or helping a child in the bathroom
• After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
• After touching an animal, or touching pet food or pet waste
• After handling pet food or pet treats
• After touching garbage


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