The 10 importance of hand washing cannot be overestimated because diarrheal-related diseases which can cause about 1.8 million deaths annually can be prevented to about % 40 through hand washing according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Hand washing is one of the simplest yet most effective measures one can take to protect themselves and others from a variety of diseases and infections.
It is important to note that for hand washing to be effective, it must be done correctly and frequently. This means using soap, scrubbing all parts of the hands (including under the nails) for at least 20 seconds, rinsing thoroughly, and drying with a clean towel.
Who can wash his hands?
Everyone can and should wash their hands, no matter their age, profession, or location. This includes:
- It’s crucial to teach children proper hand hygiene from a young age to help them establish good habits.
- Doctors, nurses, dentists, and other healthcare providers must wash their hands regularly to prevent the spread of healthcare-associated infections.
- Anyone who prepares or serves food should wash their hands thoroughly and frequently to prevent foodborne illnesses.
- In educational settings, hand washing can help reduce the spread of illnesses, keeping students in school and teachers at work.
- Regular hand washing can reduce the spread of infections in the workplace.
- Travelers, especially those using public transportation, should prioritize hand hygiene to prevent the spread of diseases.
- Those caring for others, especially individuals with weakened immune systems, must wash their hands frequently to protect their charges.
- Parents should wash their hands often to prevent spreading germs to their children and also to model good hygiene practices.
- Regardless of one’s profession or lifestyle, everyone should wash their hands regularly, especially after using the restroom, before eating or preparing food, after handling animals, and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose.
Related: 10 importance of hygiene
7 steps of washing hands
Here are the seven steps to washing your hands correctly, according to the World Health Organization (WHO):
- Wet Hands: Wet your hands with clean, running water. It doesn’t need to be hot, but it should be comfortable. Turn off the tap to conserve water
- Apply Soap: Apply enough soap to cover all surfaces of your hands, including the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails
- Rub Hands Palm to Palm: Rub your hands together, palm to palm, to create a lather
- Rub the Back of Hands: With your fingers interlocked, rub the back of each hand with the palm of your other hand
- Interlace Fingers and Rub: Interlace your fingers and rub your hands together to ensure all surfaces of your fingers are cleaned
- Clean Thumbs and Wrists: Rub around each thumb and the wrists
- Rinse and Dry: Rinse your hands thoroughly under running water. Dry your hands completely with a clean towel or air dry them
10 importance of hand washing
Here are ten important reasons why hand washing should be prioritized:
- Prevents the Spread of Disease: Hand washing can prevent the spread of many communicable diseases, including the common cold, flu, and COVID-19.
- Reduces Risk of Diarrhea and Intestinal Diseases: Hand hygiene plays a crucial role in preventing the spread of diseases like cholera, dysentery, and other gastrointestinal illnesses that can be caused by bacteria or viruses present on dirty hands.
- Protects Immune-compromised Individuals: Hand washing is especially important for those with weakened immune systems, such as individuals undergoing chemotherapy, organ transplant patients, or people living with HIV/AIDS, as they are more susceptible to infections.
- Prevents Eye and Skin Infections: Dirty hands can transfer bacteria and viruses that can cause conjunctivitis (pink eye), skin infections, or exacerbate conditions like eczema.
- Prevents Foodborne Illnesses: Proper hand hygiene is important in food preparation areas to prevent the spread of organisms that cause foodborne illnesses such as E. coli, salmonella, and norovirus.
- Reduces Antibiotic Resistance: By preventing infection, hand washing also contributes to reducing the need for antibiotics, which in turn can help prevent the development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
- Promotes Child Health: Hand washing can significantly reduce the occurrence of diarrheal and respiratory illnesses among children, especially those in communities with low resources.
- Improves Workplace Productivity: Regular hand washing can help reduce the spread of infections in the workplace, leading to fewer sick days taken by employees.
- Supports Global Health: On a global scale, hand washing with soap can help prevent the spread of diseases, which can have significant impacts on public health, especially in developing countries.
- It’s Economically Sensible: Hand washing is a cost-effective practice, especially when considering the healthcare costs associated with diseases that could be prevented by this simple act.
Hand washing policy and procedure
Here is a sample hand-washing policy and procedure that could be used in a variety of settings, including schools, hospitals, and restaurants:
All staff, students, volunteers, and visitors are required to wash their hands at regular intervals and as needed throughout the day to maintain personal hygiene and prevent the spread of disease.
- When to Wash Hands: Hands should be washed:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- 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 your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After handling pet food or pet treats
- After touching garbage
- Whenever hands are visibly dirty
- Steps for Hand Washing:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them
- Use of Hand Sanitizer: In cases where soap and water are not readily available, a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol can be used. Apply the product to the palm of one hand and rub the product all over the surfaces of your hands until your hands are dry.
FAQs about hand washing
See below for the answers to questions relating to hand washing;
Is antibacterial soap better than regular soap?
According to the CDC, regular soap is as effective as antibacterial soap at killing germs and bacteria. Overuse of antibacterial products can lead to antibiotic resistance.
Can I use hand sanitizer instead of washing hands?
Hand sanitizer is a good alternative when soap and water are not available, but it’s not as effective as hand washing at removing all types of germs. Hand sanitizers also may not work as well if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy. Sanitizers should contain at least 60% alcohol.
Does hand washing prevent COVID-19?
Yes, hand washing is a key preventive measure for COVID-19. The virus can be picked up by touching infected surfaces, and washing hands can help to eliminate the virus.
How long should I wash my hands?
You should scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. A common tip is to hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
Is warm water better than cold water for hand washing?
According to the CDC, the water temperature does not appear to affect microbe removal; however, warmer water may cause more skin irritation and is more environmentally costly.
Should I dry my hands with a towel or air-dry them?
Both methods are effective at drying hands, but it’s important to completely dry your hands regardless of the method, as germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands.
What can I do if my hands get dry from washing them often?
You can use a moisturizer to help keep your skin hydrated. If your hands become excessively dry or begin to crack, reach out to a healthcare provider, as cracked skin can increase susceptibility to infection.