Global Handwashing Day 2019: Here's the right way to wash your hands

On 15 October, the world observes Global Handwashing Day to raise awareness about the importance of washing our hands with soap.

Myupchar October 15, 2019 07:30:11 IST
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Global Handwashing Day 2019: Here's the right way to wash your hands
  • On 15 October, the world observes Global Handwashing Day to raise awareness about the importance of washing our hands with soap

  • India's Swachh Vidyalaya Swachh Bharat campaign aims to institutionalize the washing of hands before every mid-day meal among 110 million children

  • Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them

Prevention is better than cure. And the first step towards preventing diseases is maintaining good hygiene. Today, on 15 October, the world observes Global Handwashing Day to raise awareness about the importance of washing our hands with soap - an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases.

Why wash hands?

India’s Swachh Vidyalaya Swachh Bharat campaign — supported by UNICEF — aims to institutionalize the washing of hands before every mid-day meal among 110 million children.

Global Handwashing Day 2019 Heres the right way to wash your hands

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images

Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them. These germs can multiply and make people sick. Many studies have been done on the benefits that come along with handwashing.

  • Handwashing before preparing food is important to reduce the chances of childhood diarrhoea. Studies show that handwashing can reduce diarrhoea episodes by about 30%.
  • Washing our hands before eating can lower the risk of respiratory infection.
  • Handwashing reduces the chances of diarrhoeal illness in patients with a weak immune system, like in the case of AIDS.

When to wash your hands? 

One must wash hands with antiseptic soap:

  • Before and after preparing food.
  • Before eating, to ensure you’re not ingesting any harmful bacteria.
  • Between handling raw or ready-to-eat food items.
  • After using the toilet or changing a baby’s nappies.
  • Before and after attending to sick children or adults.
  • After working in the garden or any place where dirt and dust are present.
  • After touching animals.

In 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) gave preset guidelines known as the "Five Moments for Hand Hygiene" for medical professionals.

  • Before touching or coming into contact with a patient.
  • Before performing a clean or aseptic procedure.
  • After exposure risk to bodily fluids and glove removal.
  • After contact with a patient and their immediate surroundings.
  • After touching an inanimate object in the patient's immediate surroundings, even if there’s no direct patient contact.

How to wash your hands?

Simple as it may be, the correct way to wash hands can save lives. Here’s WHO’s recommendation for how to wash your hands: 

  • Wet your hands with water.
  • Apply enough soap to cover all surfaces.
  • Rub the palms together.
  • Rub the back of the left hand with the palm of the right hand, intertwining the fingers. Switch hands and repeat.
  • Rub the palms together again, but this time, interlace the fingers.
  • Now, interlock your fingers - like children sometimes do while reciting poetry. Keep the grip lose and rub the fingers of the left hand on the right palm and the fingers of the right hand on the left palm, while still keeping the hands together in this position. If your right hand was on top before, switch to bring it below the left hand and repeat.
  • Place the tips of right-hand fingers on the left palm and rub. Now place the tips of left-hand fingers on the right, and rub gently. Interlace the fingers and gently rub them together.
  • Clasp the left-hand thumb with the right palm and wash it in a rotational rubbing motion. Switch hands and repeat.
  • Rub the palm of the right-hand with the left-hand fingers in a rotational forward-backwards movement. Switch hands and repeat.
  • Wash your hands for at least 1 minute.
  • Rinse hands with water.
  • Dry your hands with a single-use towel.
  • Use the same towel to turn off the faucet.

When to use a sanitizer

Alcohol-based sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95% are effective for reducing the germs present on the hands, but they do not kill the germs completely. Moreover, some bacteria - like Clostridium difficile - cannot be killed with sanitizers. That said, in the absence of soap and water, sanitizers can help to avoid most communicable disease.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For information on one of the most common ailments that can be avoided by washing our hands properly, please read our article here.

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