National Handwashing Awareness Week

by | Dec 18, 2022 | Healthy Skin

As kids, we always got reminders to wash our hands before meals. But the truth is there’s more to hand hygiene than just that. National Handwashing Awareness Week, celebrated on the first week of December, aims to educate the public on the importance of hand hygiene and the correct way to wash our hands. 

As we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, clean hands can save lives, and it’s our responsibility to keep each other safe. To celebrate National Handwashing Awareness Week and promote good hand hygiene, here’s everything you need to know about keeping your hands clean. 

Why Is Hand Hygiene Important?

Hand hygiene is the first step to good health. Florence Nightingale was one of the first to educate the public about it in the 1800s, and it continues to play a vital role in preventing diseases in today’s society. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), regular handwashing is the best way to stop the spread of germs and contain diarrheal and respiratory infections. Hand hygiene is now standard practice worldwide because it can save people.

These are the ways germs can spread when you don’t wash your hands:

  • Through your mouth, nose, and eyes
  • Through contaminated food and drinks
  • Through contaminated objects and surfaces

A lesser-known benefit of having good hand hygiene is that it prevents the increase of antibiotic resistance. Doctors usually prescribe antibiotics for illnesses. But when there’s an overuse of antibiotics, certain bacteria can eventually become immune. Fortunately, regular handwashing can prevent the spread of sickness and the need to take antibiotics. 

What’s the Proper Way to Wash Your Hands, and How Often Should You Do It?

A quick rinse isn’t enough to kill the germs on your hands. The CDC recommends thoroughly scrubbing your hands with clean running water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. A way to gauge the proper duration is by singing “Happy Birthday” to yourself twice. You can also use the World Health Organization’s (WHO) handwashing guide as a reference:

  1. Wet your hands with clean water and put soap on them.
  2. Rub your hands together until the soap lathers up.
  3. Scrub your palms, the back of your hands, between the fingers, and under the fingernails. 
  4. Bring the lather up to the elbows. 
  5. Wash away the soap and wipe your hands dry with paper towels. 

While it’s good to wash your hands after going to the bathroom and before eating, many other instances call for handwashing, such as the following:

  • Before, during, and after cooking any food
  • After coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose
  • After changing a diaper or helping a child or another adult go to the bathroom
  • After touching trash
  • Before and after touching an animal or its food or waste
  • Before and after tending to a wound

If you don’t know whether you should wash your hands or not, it’s best to err on the side of caution and do it.

What Soap Should You Use to Wash Your Hands?

Antibacterial soap may seem more effective than regular soap in killing germs, but that’s not the case. In 2016, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that there was no proof that antibacterial soap is better. Certain ingredients in antibacterial soap aren’t meant for daily use and can do more harm than good. Fragrances and different colors don’t make a difference, either. So when it comes to soap, plain, simple soap may work best. 

Can You Replace Handwashing With Hand Sanitizers?

Hand sanitizer is not a substitute for handwashing. Only use it when clean water and soap aren’t available. The CDC recommends hand sanitizers made up of at least 60% alcohol. Apply a dime-sized portion to your hands. Rub it on your palms, the backs of your hands, and between your fingers. 

The Bottom Line

Clean hands make for a brighter, safer future. National Handwashing Awareness Week is the perfect time to learn about the importance of handwashing and build good hand hygiene habits. For more information, contact Complete Family Dermatology at (402) 423-1111.

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