Hand washing is touted as having a huge impact on controlling the spread of infectious diseases – everything from the common cold, to flu and now COVID-19. So why does something so simple as washing your hands (properly), have such a positive part to play in infection control?
It’s pretty simple. Respiratory diseases, such as the flu and COVID-19 seem to be spread through infected droplets, which are distributed when sneezing, coughing, even breathing heavily.
Those droplets can make their way directly through the air and onto nearby surfaces, as well as via the hands of the person who is unwell. These surfaces could be benchtops, door handles, light switches, fridge doors, the kettle, car steering wheels – in fact the list of anything a person touches in the course of a day is endless.
How long can the virus live on surfaces?
According to the National Environment Agency of the Singaporean government, studies have shown that coronaviruses (of which COVID-19 is the latest strain) can live on surfaces of varying materials for between 2 and 3 days. So, for anyone touching an infective surface, the chance of picking up those unwanted germs is high.
Stop touching your face
We humans are face touchers, especially when children are involved – we’re forever taking our hands to our (or others’) faces, mouths, noses; especially when eating. The problem is, we take any germs that are on our hands along for the ride.
Regular and proper hand washing with soap and water removes germs, and if using an actively bacterial hand soap, it kills germs, lessening any risk of transferring infection from surface to hands to face. Hand sanitiser is a practical and useful substitute for washing hands with soap when out and about, at work or at school and when away from running water.
So, hand hygiene is a practical and easy way to cut down yours and your family’s exposure to other peoples’ infections, and with all the concern about COVID-19 it’s an absolute must.Proper hand washing tips
- Liquid soap is best because it’s dispensed through a pump, wheras bar soaps are handled again and again, leaving microorganisms on them.
- After proper washing, you should dry your hands thoroughly, ideally using paper towels. Admittedly, it’s not the eco-friendliest option, however it is the best and recommended option – shake your hands around 10 times then use one sheet of paper towel to dry. Throw it away immediately.
- At home, a fresh hand towel daily is an option.
- It’s worth noting that hand dryers in public toilets are NOT promoted as effective in killing COVID-19.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released information regarding proper hand washing. They have covered it in this illustration: