How To Wash Your Hands

 

Why is it important to wash your hands?

 

Washing your hands properly has always been important, but since the coronavirus outbreak making sure that we wash our hands properly is much more at the front of our minds. Regularly washing your hands with soap and water is the most effective way to stop the spread of germs. When you touch different surfaces, your hands pick up bacteria. Then when you touch other surfaces, whether that be inanimate objects, other people, or even your own face, you spread these germs to the new surface. This can then lead to illness or infection, as well as other people spreading those germs even further. 

 

When should you wash your hands?

 

There are some common activities which you should always wash your hands before or after doing. 

You should always wash your hands before:
- Preparing food
- Eating
- Visiting people who are sick, immunocompromised, or elderly
- Treating a wound

You should always wash your hands after:
- Handling raw foods, especially meat
- Using the bathroom
- Changing a baby’s nappy
- Coughing or sneezing
- Blowing your nose
- Touching animals, animal feed, or animal bedding
- Visiting people who are sick
- Treating a wound
- Any other activity that gets your hands dirty (e.g. gardening, sports, cleaning, and so on)

Of course, you should also wash your hands if you know of any other reason why you may have picked up dirt or bacteria. 

 

How long should you wash your hands for?

 

All in all, the handwashing process should take between 20-30 seconds. If you find yourself getting bored, singing Happy Birthday through twice should keep you entertained for the duration needed! Or take this opportunity to practice your Oscar acceptance speech in the mirror. Whatever floats your boat. 

 

How to wash your hands properly

 

Washing your hands properly means making sure that every bit of your hand is thoroughly soaped and rinsed. After all, we don’t just pick up germs on the palms of our hands or fingertips - the backs of your hands and your wrists can also be the culprit. So although the process below might seem lengthy, it’s simply the best way to make sure you clean every part of your hands when washing them. 

1. Rinse your hands completely with warm or cold water.
2. Add soap (bar soap or liquid soap from a dispenser is fine) making sure to use enough to cover your hands. 
3. Rub the palms of your hands against each other to generate a lather.
4. Rub the back of each hand with the palm of the other, interlacing your fingers to clean in between your digits too. Repeat this motion but with your hands palm to palm. 
5. Curl your fingers at the knuckle and rub the back of your fingers against the palm of your other hand. Repeat for the other hand. 
6. Clasp your thumb in the palm of your opposite hand and twist. Repeat for the other hand. 
7. Using the very tips of your fingers, rub against the palm of your other hand to make sure the area under your fingernails is not missed. 
8. Last but not least, rub each of your wrists with the opposite hands. 
9. Thoroughly rinse your hands with running water to get rid of all the soap, and dry your hands with a towel. 

Tip: make sure to turn off the tap using your elbow or a single-use towel, otherwise you’ll undo all the work you just put in!

The NHS has produced this handy poster with easy to follow diagrams to show you how best to wash your hands effectively:

 

 

Using hand sanitisers or antibacterial hand gels

 

Washing your hands with soap and water is by far the most effective way to keep your hands clean and free of germs. But when you can’t get to a tap, hand sanitiser is a good substitute. Hand gels should be at least 60% alcohol for them to be more effective against germs, and the higher this percentage is, the more effective the gel is likely to be.

Hand sanitiser should only be used when you cannot wash your hands with soap and water, not instead of. Even after using hand sanitiser, you should wash your hands properly at a sink at the first opportunity. 

As with the traditional hand washing process, the NHS has also produced https://www.hey.nhs.uk/patient-leaflet/hand-hygiene-information/https://www.hey.nhs.uk/patient-leaflet/hand-hygiene-information/ effectively: 

 

 

Further reading:

NHS: How to wash your hands

WHO: Clean hands protect against infection

Mayo Clinic: Hand-washing Do's and Dont's

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