Falling almost directly in the middle of cold and flu season, December 4-10th are designated as Handwashing Awareness Week to help reinforce the effect that a simple washing of the hands can have on overall human health. Washing one’s hands frequently is both an easy and effective way to maintain optimal wellness and stop sickness in its tracks.
We spoke to Jennifer Baldwin, a board-certified family nurse practitioner and Five Star and WellNow’s Regional Lead Provider, to break down why a proper washing of the hands is so important and exactly what the proper technique looks like.
The Importance of Washing Your Hands
Wintertime is pinpointed as cold and flu season for a number of reasons – one of the most significant being that the flu virus, which spreads through the air, is at its most stable in colder temperatures. Additionally, fewer hours of daylight reduce our natural production of Vitamin D and melatonin: both great for keeping us healthy.
Add these to the fact that colds and the flu are unfortunately common illnesses that are both spread by person to person contact. Jenn notes that during this time of year, public places like the gym, the office and surfaces at shopping centers – shopping cart handles, stair railings, escalator supports – all become potential homes for disease-causing viruses and bacteria. A simple washing of the hands is a great way to prevent the spread of contagious diseases.
Germs That Live on Your Hands
In addition to cold and flu germs, the reported 95 percent of people who fail to properly wash their hands after using the bathroom can pass around bacteria that cause foodborne illness such as e.Coli and salmonella. That is, if someone who is infected does not go to great lengths to ensure they get an efficient hand wash, these germs can easily spread with every hand they shake and surface they touch.
Proper Handwashing Technique
According to Jenn, proper technique can be achieved with every hand wash by following a few simple steps:
- Thoroughly wet your hands with running water – it can be either hot or cold.
- Use bar or liquid soap to create a lather between your hands, then scrub vigorously for about 20 seconds.
- Make sure to wash your hands all the way up to your wrists and don’t neglect in between your fingers and under your nails.
- Rinse your hands then dry them with a clean towel or air dryer.
Elementary schools and young children often get a bad reputation for being a breeding ground when it comes to illnesses, mostly because kids fail to fully understand the importance of handwashing for personal hygiene and disease prevention. A helpful tip Jenn likes to share for parents with young children is to encourage your little ones to sing the refrain of a well-known song while they wash their hands, such as “Happy Birthday” or “Jingle Bells.”
The medical professionals at Five Star and WellNow Urgent Care encourage you to make frequent handwashing a part of your daily routine to prevent sickness, especially during cold and flu season. For the case of sniffles that unfortunately seem so inevitable during the wintertime, walk in or check in online to the location nearest you, for quick, convenient care of non-life-threatening injuries and illnesses.