Role of hand hygiene in everyday life

In the hustle-bustle of daily routine, we miss out on simple grooming and hygiene activities. One of them is hand hygiene. Our hands are exposed to many articles throughout the day. Toilet seats, doorknobs, switches that are used so many times throughout the day act as the breeding ground for bacteria and viruses. A simple reflex of covering your hands while sneezing and using the same hands to touch household articles before washing could expose your family to many infections.

In practice, very few people sanitise or clean their hands after using objects of common use, except washrooms. Experts say that handwash with soap alone can protect one out of every three children from diarrhea and one out of five children with respiratory infections like pneumonia. India has come a long way since early decades when there was a lack of potable water and awareness regarding hand washing. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has envisioned hand hygiene as a priority component in the Swachh Bharat Mission. However, the importance and popularisation of the concept of hand hygiene and sanitisers increased manifold only after the outbreak of the raging COVID-19 pandemic. Governments and global and local health agencies like WHO promoted the idea of hand hygiene as a preventive measure on a mass scale. This alone proves the importance of hand sanitisation.

When should I wash my hands?

Hand washing should not become an addiction. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing your hands after the following activities-

  • Before and after preparing food.
  • Before sitting down to eat.
  • After using the toilet.
  • After handling trash, irrespective of whether it is wet or dry.
  • After cleaning a child or his diapers.
  • After petting or playing with an animal.
  • After tending to the sick.

The ideal way to way your hands

Mere rubbing of hands together does not count as hand washing. That doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of time washing your hands. The recommended time for washing is 20 seconds, but if you do it right, those 20 seconds are enough for potentially avoiding germs for a couple of minutes. Here’s a step-by-step guide for you-

  1. Apply a liquid antibacterial handwash. Do your research before buying one and do not simply go for brands offering scented handwashes and no germ protection.
  2. Lather your hands and rub between your fingers.
  3. Rub the back of your hands.
  4. Scrub the back of your fingers and thumbs. If you have long nails, clean them from the inside.
  5. Soap your wrists.
  6. Rinse with clean flowing water.
  7. Wipe clean with a clean towel or paper towel.

How to maintain hand hygiene on the go?

It is obviously not possible to get access to running water while you are out. In this case, you can use a good alcohol-based sanitizer, clean stored water or an antibacterial soap. All these methods have the same potential to reduce healthcare-associated infections.

Remember, you must wash your hands even if they are visibly dirty.