You see signs about hand washing in restrooms at establishments that serve food and in health care facilities. I wonder why people need a sign to tell them to perform a behavior that should be habit. There are really two reasons people should wash their hands:
1. Protect themselves.
2. Protect others.
When hands are washed correctly (and that’s an important caveat) it’s the most effective protection against a variety of infectious diseases including influenza (flu) and the common cold. You don’t have to touch an infected person to get a disease spread via hand-to-hand contact. Common things we touch every day that have already been touched by countless people include doorknobs, elevator buttons, stair rails, money, and more.
I was very sick right after I returned from Thanksgiving travels and I’m certain the source was a virus caught on the airplane or airport during my travels. You see, I forgot to wash my hands or use the hand sanitizer in my purse before eating the lunch served. Two days later I had a gastro-intestinal virus that had me sick for days.
When to Wash Your Hands
Since it’s not practical to wear and change gloves all day, it’s helpful to know when you should stop and wash your hands. Always wash your hands:
- After using the bathroom
- After changing a diaper
- Before preparing food
- After handling raw meat
- Before eating
- After coughing/sneezing into your hands or blowing your nose
- Before and after providing health care
- Before touching your eyes (contacts)
- After handling garbage
- After handling animal waste
Are there any times you don’t routinely wash on the list? I think I wash my hands a lot compared to most people and I miss a couple of these routinely.
Effective Hand Washing Techniques
It’s recommended that hands are washed with soap and water OR an alcohol based hand sanitizer. I don’t need to tell you how to wash in general, but here are some tips that you might not know.
- The most important tip is to rub soapy hands together for at least 20 seconds.
- When rinsed, turn off the tap with the towel so you don’t recontaminate your hands.
- In public restrooms, use a paper towel to open the door instead of touching it directly with your hands.
I thought moms told us to wash our hands before dinner just to be polite; it was really for better health.
Note: This is part of the 31 days to better health series at Weight Chronicles. See previous articles here.