Posted: Monday, April 13, 2020

The Importance of Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene has always been an important step toward preventing illness. With the arrival of coronavirus (COVID-19), though, it’s become an absolute must. Ideally, if you’re practicing good social distancing, you’re not coming into direct contact with other people with handshakes and hugs, but even something as simple as a trip to the grocery store opens you up to the possibility of touching a surface that has been touched by someone who is sick. This is why hand hygiene is critical – now more than ever.

The two critical things to remember when it comes to hand washing are duration and coverage area. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. An easy way to remember that is that it’s about as long as it would take you to sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song two times. Remember to scrub your hands vigorously, covering all the surfaces of your hands and fingers, including the backs of your hands and your fingernails. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends turning off the faucet with a towel once you’ve finished rinsing your hands to avoid retouching the surface of the faucet.

Hand hygiene absolutely is the easiest way to prevent the spread of infections any time of year. If soap and water are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, but the important thing to remember is to make sure that it contains at least 60 percent alcohol. You’ll need about a dime- or quarter-sized amount in your palm to rub all over your hands and fingers until they’re dry. Again, coverage is key.

The CDC recommends cleaning your hands as often as possible, but it is especially important under certain circumstances, such as if you’ve been in a public place or if you’ve coughed, sneezed or blown your nose. Also, a good rule of thumb is to always wash your hands before you’re about to eat anything, before you prepare a meal for yourself or others, and if you are taking care of someone who is sick. Generally speaking, you also should wash your hands after taking out the trash or playing with pets, as well. The CDC also suggests avoiding touching your face, nose, mouth or eyes with unwashed hands.

Overall, experts recommend viewing proper hand hygiene as a way of way of taking charge of your health, not only amid the coronavirus pandemic, but every day.

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