Importance of Handwashing Highlighted this Month
This year, National Handwashing Awareness Week is observed December 1-7, 2013. Campaigns associated with this annual event highlight the importance of proper handwashing in preventing the spread of communicable diseases, including the flu, common cold, pink eye, pneumonia and strep throat, to name a few.
As December is typically the start of cold and flu season, too, the observation is especially timely.
By frequently washing your hands, you wash away germs that have been picked up from other sources like people, contaminated surfaces, animals or animal waste. Although simple, the act of consistently and properly washing your hands will make a big difference in keeping your household well this winter. Additionally, it can help protect those you come into contact with at work, school or other public settings.
While experts recommend that you always wash your hands after using the bathroom, changing diapers, cleaning up after a pet or handling money, statistics suggest that people are not following this advice. In fact, only two-thirds of adults in the U.S. wash their hands after using the bathroom, while one in four adults fail to wash their hands after changing diapers. Additionally, fewer than half of Americans wash their hands after cleaning up after pets and fewer than one in five wash their hands after touching money.
The proper way to wash your hands is to use warm (not hot) water with soap. Rub your hands together vigorously, making sure to scrub all areas, for at least 15 seconds (approximately the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”). Rinse your hands thoroughly and be sure to dry them with a clean towel. Turn the faucet off with the towel, not your hands, to ensure you are not re-contaminating clean hands.
Experts recommend that you always wash your hands when they are dirty or before eating, and rather than cough or sneeze into your hands, do so into the crook of your arm instead. If you do sneeze or cough into your hands, be sure to wash your hands immediately after. Also, refrain from putting your fingers in your eyes, nose or mouth (known as the “T Zone”). This is an especially important lesson to teach children when they are young, as they are more prone to put their fingers in all those places. Always be sure to wash hands before and after handling food, especially raw meat, as one in three E. coli occurrences is caused from not washing hands before handling food.
These simple safeguards will help keep you and your family well this winter!