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World Hand Hygiene Day 2023: The Importance of Hand Washing for Disease Prevention

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World Hand Hygiene Day 2023: The Importance of Hand Washing for Disease Prevention

Dermatology | Posted on 05/17/2023 by RBH



World Hand Hygiene Day is observed on May 5th every year to promote and raise awareness about the relevance of hand hygiene in preventing infections and diseases. This day focuses on the crucial role that hand hygiene plays to avert the spread of infections, particularly in healthcare settings, where hand hygiene is critical to patient safety.

World Hand Hygiene Day is a vital reminder that hand hygiene is a basic yet important measure to avert the spread of infections. It spreads encouragement among individuals, healthcare workers, and organizations for adopting and maintaining good hand hygiene practices, like washing hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizers. By celebrating the day, we can promote a culture of hand hygiene, which can ultimately save lives and prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

What is hand hygiene?

Hand hygiene is referred to as the act of cleaning and sanitizing hands to eliminate the probability of microorganisms presence such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi. Proper hand hygiene is important to avert the spread of infectious diseases from one person to another, particularly in healthcare settings. It involves the use of soap and water, hand sanitizers, or antiseptic agents for the removal of dirt, grime, and microorganisms present in the hand. Hand hygiene is a plain but efficient way of protecting oneself and others from infectious illnesses.

What are the types of hand hygiene?

There are two types of hand hygiene which include:

  • Regular hand hygiene: It involves washing hands with soap and water or the use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when hands are not visibly dirty. Regular hand hygiene is suggested for routine hand cleaning, as it helps in removing dirt, grime, and transient microorganisms from hands.
  • Antiseptic hand hygiene: This type of hand hygiene involves washing hands with an antiseptic agent like chlorhexidine gluconate, iodine, or alcohol-based hand rubs. It is recommended in healthcare settings or in situations where there is a probability of high risk of infection transmission, like during surgical procedures.

Both regular and antiseptic hand hygiene is vital to prevent the spread of infections, and the type of hand hygiene used depends on the particular situation and the level of risk for infection. It is important to ensure that hand hygiene is performed correctly and at the right time to ensure optimal safety against the spread of germs.

How do germs in hands spread?

Germs can spread from hands in numerous ways. One of the most common ways that they spread is through direct contact with an infected person's hands or with surfaces contaminated with germs. When an infected individual coughs or sneezes, droplets containing germs are transmitted to their hands, and if they touch surfaces, they can spread to other individuals touching those surfaces.

Germs can also spread by indirect contact with contaminated items like doorknobs, keyboards, or phones. When an individual touches a contaminated object and then touches their face, mouth, or eyes, germs can easily enter their body.

Germs can also spread due to airborne transmission, where droplets containing germs can remain suspended in the air and are inhaled by others. Proper hand hygiene can assist in averting the spread of germs from hands and eliminating the risk of infection.

How often should you wash your hands?

The hand washing frequency depends on various factors which include personal hygiene, the type of activities you perform, and the infection risk level. However, generally, it is recommended to wash hands:

  • Before and after preparing food or eating
  • After using a washroom
  • After changing a diaper
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or its feed
  • Before and after caring for an individual who is unwell 

Additionally to the above situations, it is also recommended to wash hands regularly throughout the day, mainly when you are in a public place, around someone who is unwell, or after touching contaminated surfaces. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can also be used as an alternative to washing hands when soap and water are not available.

What are the best tips to wash your hands?

Here are some tips to wash your hands the right way:

  • Use warm water: Warm water is more effective than cold water to remove dirt and germs from your skin.
  • Apply soap: Make sure to cover all surfaces while applying soap on your hands. This can be liquid soap, bar soap, or antibacterial soap. 
  • Create a lather: Rub your hands together vigorously to create a good lather. Cover all surfaces of your hands, including the backs, between your fingers, and under your nails to remove dirt, bacteria, and viruses.
  • Scrub for at least 20 seconds: Make sure to scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds to effectively remove germs. 
  • Pay attention to fingertips and nails: Don't forget to clean your fingertips and nails. You can involve using a nail brush to clean under your nails.
  • Rinse thoroughly: Rinse your hands well under clean, running water, and make sure that the soap is washed away. Rinsing properly helps in removing any remaining dirt and germs.
  • Dry your hands: Use a clean towel or air to dry your hands. Drying your hands completely is important, as germs can transfer more easily to and from wet hands.

Importance of Hand Washing for Disease Prevention

Here are some key reasons why hand washing is important for disease prevention:

  • Removes germs and bacteria: Our hands come into contact with numerous surfaces throughout the day, including objects, surfaces, and other people. These surfaces can harbor harmful germs and bacteria that can cause various illnesses. Proper hand washing with soap and water helps remove these pathogens from the skin, reducing the risk of infection.
  • Prevents respiratory infections: Various respiratory infections like the common cold, flu, and COVID-19, are transmitted through respiratory droplets. Regular hand washing minimizes the chances of transferring these respiratory viruses and bacteria to ourselves and others.
  • Breaks the chain of infection: Germs can easily spread from person to person through direct contact or by touching contaminated surfaces. Hand washing breaks the chain of infection by removing germs from our hands and preventing their transmission to others. This is mainly important in settings such as healthcare facilities, schools, and public places where people gather closely.
  • Reduces foodborne illnesses: Inappropriate handling and food preparation can lead to the presence of harmful bacteria and viruses, causing foodborne illnesses. By washing hands before handling or consuming food, we can eliminate potential contaminants and reduce the risk of getting sick.
  • Protects vulnerable populations: Certain individuals, such as the elderly, young children, and people with weakened immune systems, are more susceptible to infections. Regular hand washing by both caregivers and individuals themselves helps protect these vulnerable populations by minimizing the transmission of germs.
  • Promotes overall hygiene: Hand washing is an essential part of maintaining good personal hygiene. It helps remove dirt, debris, and other substances that may be present on our hands. By practicing regular hand hygiene, we contribute to our overall health and well-being.

Conclusion

In conclusion, hand washing plays a vital role in preventing the spread of diseases. It is a simple and effective practice that everyone should incorporate into their daily routine to protect themselves and others from illnesses. It is a simple and cost-effective method that anyone can adopt to promote personal and public health. So, let's make hand hygiene a priority in our daily lives and encourage others to do the same for a healthier and safer community. The healthcare professionals at Rukmani Birla Hospital, one of the best multispeciality hospitals in Jaipur promote and raise awareness to maintain hand hygiene.