Wash your Hands!!

Wash your Hands!!

It’s National Hand Washing Awareness Week. The Pomperaug District Department of Health would like to remind everyone about the importance of handwashing to stay healthy. It is our first line of defense against colds, flu, and viral gastroenteritis. The Pomperaug District Department of Health would like to offer some information about handwashing.

Sandy Weinberg, Public Health Nurse for the Pomperaug District Department of Health says “Handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of infection and illness. Studies in schools have shown that students who wash their hands have fewer colds and less stomach upsets.” For example, a study of 305 Detroit students who washed their hands four times a day resulting in 24% fewer colds and 51% less stomach upsets.

How people wash their hands is important. A quick rinse of fingertips under the faucet will probably not do much in the way of preventing the spread of germs. In fact, according to the CDC, it takes 15-20 seconds of vigorous handwashing with soap and water to effectively kill germs. A Michigan State University study found that people are only washing their hands, on average, for about 6 seconds.

Here’s how proper handwashing works: the soap suspends the dirt and soils, the friction of rubbing your hands together helps pull the dirt and soils that trap germs away from the skin, and the running water washes it all down the drain. The final friction of drying the hands removes even more germs. Since the friction and running water remove the germs, it is not necessary to use an antibacterial soap. You do not have to use antibacterial soap; regular soap is just as effective and does not promote the development of resistant bacteria. Regular soap is less irritating for your skin.

For the most effective handwashing: wet hands with running water, apply soap and rub hands together for 20 seconds – be sure to wash all parts of the hand up to the wrist. Rinse hands with running water and then dry vigorously with a clean cloth towel or a paper towel. You can use the paper towel to turn off the faucet. In a public rest room, open the door with a paper towel when you leave.

Wash hands after using the toilet or changing diapers; before eating; after sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose; and after touching sores, lacerations or infected areas. Hands should also be washed after handling raw meat/poultry/seafood or unwashed fruits and vegetables; after touching animals or pets; after playing or working outside and before preparing foods. Of course, hands should be washed if they are visibly soiled.

When you get home from work, shopping or other outings, wash your hands. Children should wash their hands when they get home from school.

If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizers. Be aware though, that they are not a substitute for handwashing, since you are not physically removing the germs and hand sanitizers may not be very effective for some germs such as Norovirus (stomach virus). There are two types that are readily available in stores: the alcohol based gels and a foaming type that contains a different antimicrobial ingredient called benzalkonium chloride. Be sure to use enough hand sanitizer to thoroughly cover your hands and rub them together until dry. This should take about 20-30 seconds.