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Why Washing Your Hands is Effective

The quickest way to spread germs and disease is through physical contact. Not only by touching other people but from everything with which you come in contact. Having come into contact with germs you can infect others and even infect yourself by touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Knowing how and when to wash your hands properly is important.

When to wash your hands

Wash your hands whenever they are clearly dirty.

Preparing food is one of the most important times to have clean hands. Even if the food you’re preparing is going to be cooked, it is important to wash your hands before and after preparing food.

If you use contact lenses you need clean hands when you put them in your eyes and taking them out.

Wash your hands after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing, as well as after using the toilet, changing a nappy or doing housework, and especially after handling garbage of any kind.

If you are caring for someone who is sick, treating wounds – and that includes even when putting a plaster on a scraped knee, it is important to have clean hands. Germs pass even more quickly through an open wound.

Which is the best soap to use?

Regular brands of soap are as effective at fighting germs as antibacterial soaps. Using antibacterial soaps may result in antimicrobial agent resistant bacteria. It really is best to use ordinary soap. Be wary of any product including liquid, foam and gel hand soaps, bar soaps, and body washes which contain triclosan and triclocarban.

When soap and water are not available, 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizers are a good alternative. Carrying an alcohol-based sanitizer in your handbag or pocket means you will never have to worry about washing your hands when you are not near bathroom facilities. It is also safe for children, but always supervise young children and store the product out of reach when it is not in use as swallowing the sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning.

There is an art to using a hand sanitizer. Ensure you have enough of the product on the palm of your hands to wet your hands completely. Rub your hands together so the product covers all the surfaces of your hands, up to your wrists. Keep rubbing until your hands are dry.

The right way to wash your hands correctly

Although alcohol-based sanitizers are a good alternative, it is always best to wash your hands with soap and water. It is also important to do it right.

To begin with, wet your hands with either warm or cold running water. Apply the soap. It doesn’t matter if it comes in bar, liquid or powder soap form. Lather your hands well and, for a minimum of twenty seconds, rub them vigorously, palm to palm, back of hands, wrists, between your fingers and under fingernails. After that, make sure you rinse your hands well and dry them on a clean towel.
Keep yourself and others healthy by developing a habit of washing your hands correctly and at the right times.

For more information Please contact:
Dr F Amod
(Infectious Disease Specialist)
MBchB(UKZN), FCPATH (Micro), FCP(med), Dip(HIV Micro)
Shifa Private Hospital
Telephone: +27 (0)31 240 5260
Email: Amodf@mweb.co.za

Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.