Global handwashing day: Importance of hand washing
One lesson that Covid-19 taught us was to adopt the practice of washing our hands as one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of germs and stay healthy.
Each year on October 15, Global Handwashing Day highlights the importance of handwashing with soap and water at home, in the community, and around the world. The day was founded by the Global Handwashing Partnership in 2008.
The theme for 2021 is “Our Future is at Hand – Let’s Move Forward Together.” With a focus on the importance of hand washing and to come up with “creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times”.
“Our hands are the biggest source of microorganisms as we use our hands to carry out the maximum chores from handling currency, carrying stuff around, handling cell phones and hence need to be clean so that they act as our body’s weapons to prevent microorganisms from entering our body,” says Jessica D Souza, Chief Nursing Officer, Global Hospital, Mumbai.
Hand washing is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting ill or spreading germs. So, education about the risks and benefits associated with hand washing can considerably reduce the number of people who get sick and even die from infectious diseases.
“Washing hands with soap under running water is a simplest technique which kills the germs and prevents gastric as well as respiratory infections like flu and diarrhea,” says Kshitija Jadhav, Assistant Nursing Superintendent, Masina Hospital, Mumbai.
Hand washing tips
Each of us have our beliefs and follow practices. The number of times we wash hands varies from each individual and depends on the nature of our work. “Wash hands with soap and water, preferably liquid soap as bar soap has higher chances of harvesting harmful organisms, while washing hands make sure to interlace fingers as the space between fingers are great reservoir of organisms, drying the hands is equally important and of course not with a soiled or wet napkin,” says D Souza.
UNICEF states that you can lessen the chances of being infected by Covid-19 by 36% by properly washing hands. It is the most effective way to avoid the spread of infections and keep sickness at bay.
“One must wash their hands whenever they touch any visibly soiled area, after getting out from any transport, going for marketing and touching various places for selection of items, after using the bathroom, before preparation of food, before eating and after coughing or blowing nose,” says Jadhav.
For people working in the health industry, 5 moments have to be followed strictly.
Moment 1 - before touching a patient.
Moment 2 - before a procedure.
Moment 3 - after a procedure or body fluid exposure risk.
Moment 4 - after touching a patient.
Moment 5 - after touching a patient’s surroundings.
D’souza adds, “If a person handles babies, they need to double up the frequency of hand washing and someone working in a health care industry is well aware of the 5 moments of hand hygiene.” She encourages us to exercise caution, “Always remember not to be obsessed with hand hygiene, use hand sanitizer when there is no access to soap and water, too much of chemicals can cause skin irritation and be harmful.”
Developing hand washing behaviour in children
Practising hand hygiene by parents in the presence of children can help them build up these practices.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to get children follow handwashing so, parents can use few techniques like use of foam soap, blow soap bubbles, use of different shapes and colors of soaps, give them time up of 20 seconds, show them a video on handwashing, ask them to do handwashing dance,” opines Jadhav.
D’souza believes it’s important to teach hygiene practices as early as and when they are toddlers. “Show them cartoons of harmful bacteria and reinforce the concept of washing hands by singing songs and reading books which can make the practise very interesting. Using water toys can add on to the fun in washing hands and yes of course guiding them not to waste water.``
All of us should make handwashing as a part of our routine life which will really prevent maximum infection and prevent diseases.