Importance of Hand Washing

Keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to prevent sickness and the spread of germs to others. There are many diseases and conditions that can be spread by not washing your hands properly, including the current global pandemic that is Covid-19.

The World Health Organization (WHO), and other health professionals have warned against touching your face, eyes, nose and mouth to prevent the spread of germs and infections. A lot of people tend to touch their faces without even realizing it, so it is important to wash your hands with running water and soap.

Bathrooms, toilets and public washrooms are a hive for disease causing agents, they can thrive and spread rapidly in such places. After you use the bathroom you should always wash your hands with soap and water. It has been found that even a gram of human feces can contain over a trillion germs, so even a fraction of that can make a person very sick and spread diseases like diarrhea and norovirus. After washing your hands, it is better to use paper towels or tissues to dry your hands rather than to use an air dryer. Air dryers can actually increase the number of germs on your hands and facilitate the spread of disease.

Washing hands is also crucial because as we go about our daily life we may come into contact with objects or places where infectious germs are present. For example, handrails and seats of buses, door handles of public offices, cars or shops and many more. Specially with concern to rapidly contagious diseases like Covid-19, which spreads from person to person quite easily washing your hands after touching such places is a good way to protect yourself from the  disease. Carrying hand sanitizer when using public transport is also a good idea.

You should also wash your hands before and after preparing and eating food. Raw meat is a known carrier of many pathogens such as salmonella or E-coli. These germs could spread from the meat to yourself and others if you do not clean your hands properly.

Washing hands has been shown to reduce the number of people who get sick of diarrhea by 23-40%. It reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21%. Handwashing could protect 1 in 5 young children from respiratory infections, such as pneumonia.

When washing your hands, it is more important that you use running water than a basin of standing water which could become contaminated with use. Washing your hands with soap will drastically reduce the number of disease-causing microorganisms on your hands than just water. Liquid soap is also preferred over bar soaps especially in school or office bathrooms. However, antibacterial soap has not shown to be better at removing germs compared to regular soap.

If you visit a sick person or touch a person who has a disease it is important to wash your hands to get rid of any germs that may have spread from the patient to you. It is best to avoid visiting those with contagious diseases. You should also remember to wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Even if it is into a handkerchief or tissue once you dispose of it make sure to clean your hands properly to get rid of any lingering germs.

Written by: Usman Shaam
Vice President (Activities), FESA

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