The week of December 2-8 is National Handwashing Awareness Week. The beginning of December also marks the start of Flu Vaccine Awareness Month. The two health observances go hand in hand, as consistently and correctly washing hands can help prevent the spread of flu and other illnesses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, handwashing can prevent 1 in 3 diarrhea-related illnesses and 1 in 5 infections, including the flu. The CDC also reports that only 31 percent of men and 65 percent of women washed their hands after using a public restroom.
“It’s been proven that clean hands can prevent sickness,” says Dr. Jennifer Driver, a family medicine physician with Touro’s Crescent City Physicians. “Think of how many different things we touch during an average day. Now imagine how many of those things were touched by other people’s hands. Washing your hands is vital in preventing the spread of dangerous microbes.”
And though we’re taught as youngsters to wash our hands before dinner, it’s important to remember that germs don’t care what time of day it is.
“From childhood, we should be taught that personal hygiene begins and ends with our hands,” said Dr. Scott Zander, a pediatrician at Lakeside Children’s Clinic, a location of Children’s Pediatrics. “Parents and caregivers can model good handwashing behavior and remind or help young children to always wash their hands, especially when coming home from school and always before eating, even make handwashing part of your family meals. Healthy hands make for happy and healthier homes.”
LCMC Health and its hospitals are taking this opportunity to share some handy tips and information in honor of National Handwashing Awareness Week.
1. Do it right
Experts recommend washing your hands with soap and clean water for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to get a good lather going and clean the back of the hands, between the fingers and under the nails. Dry them using a clean towel. There is a lot of science behind these recommendations, so be sure to follow them each time you wash your hands.
2. Memorize the five steps
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls hand washing “a do-it-yourself vaccine” and suggests remembering five easy steps: Wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry.
3. Learn the Four Principles of Hand Awareness
Endorsed by the American Medical Association and American Academy of Family Physicians, the four principles are:
1) Wash your hands when they are dirty and before eating;
2) Do not cough into hands;
3) Do not sneeze into hands; and
4) Don’t put your fingers in your eyes, nose or mouth.
4. Handwash your way to health
Using antibiotics creates antibiotic resistance. Handwashing prevents many sicknesses, so people need less antibiotics. Therefore, less antibiotic resistance.
5. Sneezes are mini hurricanes
A typical human sneeze exits the body at about 200 miles per hour and emits around 40,000 droplets into the air. People are urged not to sneeze into hands, but if there is no tissue handy, sneeze – or cough – into an upper sleeve.