As children, we’re taught that washing your hands is one of the most effective ways to protect
yourself from infectious diseases like the flu. But, as we grow older, some of us tend to forget
the benefits of proper handwashing.
Your skin forms a protective layer around the body that acts as a barrier against harmful
things in the environment like germs and certain chemicals. Our skin is extremely effective at
protecting against germs; however, places like our nose, mouth, and eyes are much less
protected and are common sites through which germs gain access to the body.
Unsurprisingly, we touch many different surfaces that are covered in germs in the run of a
single day. Germs are pathogens that may cause illness, some of which can live on surfaces
for as long as a few days. With all of these dirty surfaces that we encounter on a daily basis,
frequent handwashing is one of the best defences against germ-caused illness.
It is crucial to wash your hands after every trip to the bathroom, after changing a diaper,
before eating, after coughing or sneezing, before or after caring for someone who is ill, after
touching animals, and after touching public surfaces like doorknobs, restaurant menus, or
Handwashing not only protects you, but it protects your coworkers and loved ones around
you. Handwashing helps keep your system healthy and reduces the spread of germs to those
around you. Handwashing has been shown to decrease respiratory and diarrheal related
illnesses. Proper handwashing can prevent one-third of diarrhea-related illnesses and one-fifth of respiratory illnesses (1).
Handwashing may seem like the last activity that needs a set of instructions, but many people
don’t realize that the way they wash their hands is, in fact, not getting rid of many germs at
all. Here are some simple steps we recommend:
- Wet hands with clean, warm water.
- Apply soap to cover all hand surfaces and lather thoroughly.
- Scrub palms, fingers, spaces between fingers, backs of hands and wrists.
- Rinse hands under clean, running water.
- Dry hands thoroughly by patting with a towel.
These steps may seem like common knowledge, but very few people actually take the time
necessary to properly rid their hands of the germs they set out to clean in the first place. Be
mindful the next time you wash your hands so that you can help protect yourself and those
around you from germs!
- Infection and Prevention Control Canada