Why And How To Wash Your Hands Properly

Hello friends! Today we would like to talk about the importance of hand washing and provide you 5 simple steps to follow when washing your hands to make sure they are clean and healthy!

Did you know that hand washing with soap and water is one of the top recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for avoiding getting sick? Proper hand washing with soap reduces the amounts of germs by removing the oily lipid membranes that bacteria and viruses, including COVID-19, protect themselves with. Studies have found that hand washing with soap can reduce the amount of stomach and respiratory illnesses by a significant amount. A 2006 study found that handwashing with soap decreased respiratory illnesses in the general population by 16-21% (Rabie & Curtis, 2006) (Aiello, Coulborn, Perez, & Larson, 2008).

Additional support of the importance of hand washing can be seen in the correlation between hand washing culture within a country and the spread of COVID-19. Countries that exhibit a weak handwashing culture tend to have more cases of COVID-19 (Pogrebna & Kharlamov, 2020). Figure 1 below shows the total number of confirmed cases (using a logarithmic scale) versus a measure of handwashing culture. The red bubbles are the number of confirmed COVID cases per million of population from March 2020.

FIGURE 1: Cross-cultural handwashing culture versus COVID-19 magnitude (Pogrebna & Kharlamov, 2020)

Despite overwhelming evidence that proper hand washing reduces illness and the spread of germs and viruses, a vast amount of people do not follow adequate hand washing routines. A 2018 global study found that only about 26% of people wash their hands with soap after possible fecal exposure (Wolf et al., 2018). Lack of soap and hand washing facilities in places like developing countries are a partial factor for this startlingly low number, but even high-income nations lack sufficient frequency. The same study found that only 51% of people in regions with high access to handwashing facilities washed their hands with soap after going to the washroom (Wolf et al., 2018). Shocked? Disgusted? We were too!

Why do some of us practice great hand hygiene, while others do not think it is necessary to pick up the bar of soap even after going to the bathroom? Researchers are not exactly sure, but they are eager to find out so they can effectively improve hand washing occurrence and methodology. 

Now that we’ve discussed the importance of hand washing and enlightened you about the scary truth of hand washing (the lack there of), we want to share with you 5 simple hand washing steps as well as some key times in the day to wash your hands. Both lists were developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

  1. Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap
  • It is important to apply soap! The surfactants in soap lift microbes from skin and soap tends to make people scrub their hands for longer (Burton et al., 2011).
  1. Lather all parts of your hands (the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails)
  • Microbes are present on all surfaces of the hand so you should scrub your entire hand.
  1. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds
  • Studies have shown that washing hands for 15-30 seconds removes more germs than washing for shorter periods (Jensen, Danyluk, Harris, & Schaffner, 2015).
  1. Rinse your hands thoroughly under clean running water
  • Rinsing the soap off your hands ensures germs leave your skin and minimizes skin irritation (Todd, Michaels, Smith, Greig, & Bartleson, 2010).
  1. Dry your hands using a clean paper towel or air dry them
  • Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands. Studies have found that drying your hands with a paper towel (Huang, Ma, & Stack, 2012).

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020

Below are some specific times in the day that the CDC recommends hand washing to stop germs and viruses from spreading:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • After using the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After touching waste

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020

We hope this short post has encouraged you to improve your hand washing habits if you are not already following the above recommendations. You can make yourself, your family, and your community safer just by washing your hands properly. When soap and water is not available, use a sanitizer!

 

References:

  1. Rabie T and Curtis V. Handwashing and risk of respiratory infections: a quantitative systematic review.external icon Trop Med Int Health. 2006 Mar;11(3):258-67. 
  2. Aiello AE, Coulborn RM, Perez V, Larson EL. Effect of hand hygiene on infectious disease risk in the community setting: a meta-analysis.external icon Am J Public Health. 2008;98(8):1372-81
  3. Pogrebna, G., & Kharlamov, A. (2020, March). The Impact of Cross-Cultural Differences in Handwashing Patterns on the COVID-19 Outbreak Magnitude. Retrieved November 09, 2020, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340050986_The_Impact_of_Cross-Cultural_Differences_in_Handwashing_Patterns_on_the_COVID-19_Outbreak_Magnitude
  1. Wolf, J., Johnston, R., Freeman, M., Ram, P., Slaymaker, T., Laurenz, E., & Pruss-Ustun, A. (2018, December 10). Handwashing with soap after potential faecal contact: Global, regional and country estimates. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://academic.oup.com/ije/article/48/4/1204/5238107
  2. Pogrebna, G., & Kharlamov, A. (2020, March). The Impact of Cross-Cultural Differences in Handwashing Patterns on the COVID-19 Outbreak Magnitude. Retrieved November 09, 2020, from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/340050986_The_Impact_of_Cross-Cultural_Differences_in_Handwashing_Patterns_on_the_COVID-19_Outbreak_Magnitude
  3. Burton, M., Cobb, E., Donachie, P., Judah, G., Curtis, V., & Schmidt, W. P. (2011). The effect of handwashing with water or soap on bacterial contamination of hands. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21318017/
  4. Jensen, D., Danyluk, M., Harris, L., & Schaffner, D. (2015, April 01). Quantifying the Effect of Hand Wash Duration, Soap Use, Ground Beef Debris, and Drying Methods on the Removal of Enterobacter aerogenes on Hands. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://meridian.allenpress.com/jfp/article/78/4/685/174801/Quantifying-the-Effect-of-Hand-Wash-Duration-Soap
  5. Todd, E., Michaels, B., Smith, D., Greig, J., & Bartleson, C. (2010, October 01). Outbreaks Where Food Workers Have Been Implicated in the Spread of Foodborne Disease. Part 9. Washing and Drying of Hands To Reduce Microbial Contamination. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://meridian.allenpress.com/jfp/article/73/10/1937/173301/Outbreaks-Where-Food-Workers-Have-Been-Implicated
  6. Huang, C., Ma, W., & Stack, S. (2012). The hygienic efficacy of different hand-drying methods: A review of the evidence. Retrieved November 05, 2020, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22656243/
  7. 10.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020, September 1). When and How to Wash Your Hands. Retrieved November 09, 2020, from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html
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