Did you know it’s National Handwashing Awareness Week? While it’s a simple action, hand-washing is a great way to prevent diseases such as COVID-19. Hand hygiene was a revolutionary discovery that saved many lives and made a huge impact on healthcare. Ignaz Semmelweis is known to be the father of hand hygiene, but despite the proof shown that handwashing helped prevent infections, handwashing was not a regular practice until the 1980s. In the 1980s, a string of outbreaks and infections led to public concern, and the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started promoting hand hygiene.
Why is Handwashing So Important?
Handwashing helps prevent illnesses by reducing the number of respiratory pathogens on your hands and preventing those pathogens from entering your body or passing onto to others. Additionally, by preventing more diseases, handwashing also keeps us from becoming immune to antibiotics. If people don’t get sick, they don’t need antibiotics, and they won’t develop an immunity to the antibiotics.
Best Way to Wash Your Hands
However, handwashing is only helpful if you do it right. Here is a video by the Mayo Clinic demonstrating how to wash your hands.
Some key factors:
- Wet your hands first
- Use soap and lather
- Rub all parts of your hand for 20 seconds
- Rinse and use a clean towel to dry your hands
Don’t forget that the faucet and handles are dirty. Dr. Poland recommends using the towel to turn off the faucet and open the door to prevent germs from contaminating your clean hands.
How Does Soap Work?
Soap is a very important factor of the handwashing process, but how does soap get rid of germs on your hands? The easiest way to explain it is that soap has hydrophilic and hydrophobic parts that helps remove any grime you have on your hands. As you probably know, oils and water do not mix easily, which is why washing with just water won’t make a difference to your hands. However, by adding soap into the mix, the water can remove the oils and germs.
The way it happens is the soap molecules arrange themselves so that the hydrophilic part points outwards and the hydrophobic parks point towards the center of the cluster, which is known as a micelle. This causes all the oil to be trapped in the middle, and the water moves it off your skin.
Wash Your Hands!
With winter on our hands, make sure you wash your hands! People are more likely to be vulnerable to illnesses during the winter as the cold and dry air affects the respiratory system. Washing your hands is a great defense against any germs and diseases that may spread. National Handwashing Awareness Week is a way to inform people about the benefits of handwashing, so make sure you spread the information and promote handwashing!