Let’s face it, most of us do not wash our hands as often as we should. Global Handwashing Day is October 15, so this is a good time to talk about some facts you should know about washing your hands.
“The single most important thing we can do to keep from getting sick and spreading illness to others is to clean our hands, according to the CDC.” Lack of handwashing or not washing hands well contributes to almost 50 percent of all foodborne illness outbreaks. (2)
According to UNICEF, hand washing with soap can reduce the incidence of acute respiratory infections by 23 percent.
UNICEF goes on to cite that handwashing with soap before eating, preparing food or after using the toilet can reduce diarrhea rates by more than 40 percent. This is particularly important in countries where soap is not always available.
“Research shows that children living in households exposed to hand washing promotion and soap had half the diarrheal rates of children living in control neighborhoods.” (5)
“Because hand washing can prevent the transmission of a variety of pathogens, it may be more effective than any single vaccine.” (5)
Let's review some common questions about handwashing.
1. How long should I wash my hands for?
Rub your hands together with soap until lather forms. Wash them for 20 seconds or as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. Make sure to scrub the backs of your hands, then rinse.
2. Does water temperature matter?
It is has been found that water temperature doesn’t really matter. Warm water will cut through grease easier but cold water will work just fine.
3. What is the best way to dry my hands?
It is not clear whether paper towels or air dryers are better. What is important is getting your hands fully dry, as wet hands are more likely to spread bacteria on to other surfaces.
4. Can I use sanitizer instead of washing my hands?
Washing hands with soap and water is best. Sanitizers are not effective if hands are visibly dirty.