National Hand Washing Awareness Week

by Howard Gerber on December 6, 2010

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National Hand Washing Awareness Week is December 5-11. This week long holiday encourages parents, teachers, students, and community members the importance of keeping hands clean and what to avoid if your hands are not clean. The Henry the Hand website has numerous resources for communities and schools to help get ready for the week and to reinforce the importance of keeping ones hands clean.

Hand washing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to limit the spread of illness among the population. Among other tips that are stressed is the importance of not coughing or sneezing into your hands. Doing so allows those germs to migrate onto your hands and then onto anything, or anyone, you subsequently touch. Most people automatically attempt to cover their mouth or nose when sneezing or coughing, which is good, but instead of using your hands, you should use your elbow or a tissue.

Washing hands whenever they are dirty as well as before eating is another important strategy. While it is much more obvious that hands need to be washed when there is visible dirt on them, hands do gather dirt and germs throughout the day. Before you put those dirty hands on something that will be entering your mouth, you must take the time to clean up. Finally, the week focuses on the importance of avoiding the T-Zone of your eyes, nose, and mouth. These are the most easily accessible areas for germs to enter into the body because of the moist mucus membranes which are such a hospitable environment for germs. If you touch these areas, you are giving germs a free ride into your body and are much more likely to become ill.

This may seem like an overly simplified or even cute awareness week that would be beneficial only for students. Admittedly, many of the tools and supplies available on the website are intended for children. However, adults would benefit from a greater awareness of how germs enter the body and the measures that can be taken to limit cross-contamination. Hospitals, schools, gas stations, restaurants, and grocery stores are all beginning to try and educate employees and visitors by placing hand sanitizer in wall units. While this is an important step towards increasing awareness, hand washing is still the most effective method.

Wash Your Hands

Oddly, many people do not know the most effective way to wash their hands. According to the CDC, you should first wet hands in running water, warm if available, and then apply soap. Create a full lather and thoroughly wash all surfaces for as long as it takes you to sing Happy Birthday twice. Finally, dry hands and use a paper towel, if possible, to turn off the water.

How often do you wash your hands or use hand sanitizer during a day? Have you noticed a decrease in illness when you do clean your hands on a regular basis?

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