Flu Shot Week and Hand-Washing Awareness Week? Well, they do seem to go hand in hand…
Bad pun, sorry. But it’s true that both can prevent the spread of disease!
Hand washing is one of the easiest ways we can maintain good health. While hand sanitizer gels are readily available, as are cleaning wipes, the best defence is plain old soap and water—germs are getting resistant to the antibacterial hand soaps that are commonly around, so a plain old hand soap is the best bet (and might save you a few bucks, although they can be harder to find!). And, if you have chronic diseases that affect your immune system (which is a lot of them, like lung disease—including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and cystic fibrosis, as well as any type of diabetes, and more), or take treatments that can impact your immune system, like corticosteroids such as prednisone, common germs can cause more significant problems, or at least more lengthy illness and more difficulty controlling your chronic disease. With the holidays at hand (that pun was unintentional, but I’m leaving it!) and a lot of handshakes, exchanges of money, food and gifts, it’s a good time for a hand washing refresher
Steps to Perfect the Hand Wash:
It’s not as hard as you’d think. Those posters near kitchen sinks or in bathrooms at restaurants and schools with hand washing technique are pretty spot on, but they often miss a few cues that can make your routine just that—more routine.
- Push up your sleeves to just above your wrists—you may also wish to remove your watch or any bracelets. Wet your hands, and apply a “dollop” of non-antibacterial soap (or, whatever you’ve got—antibacterial is better than nothing I’m sure!).
- Rub your palms together, then move your fingers to rub against your palms, and then interlace your fingers. Then, move to the back of your hands and fingers—pay attention to the fingernail area too. Switch hands and focus on the other one.
If you’re old school, do this for the length of time it takes to sing Happy Birthday or Row Row Row your boat—about 20 seconds. (The “Wash, Wash, Wash your hands” totally a play on Row Row Row your boat, and also this fine clip from the cartoon, Arthur.)
- Remember to move up to your wrists!
- More and more sinks are motion activated for various good reasons—saving water, and avoiding touching a potentially germy surface. Make sure to turn off the tap with a paper towel in a public space.
You should wash your hands after you cough or sneeze, use the bathroom or change a diaper, after you enter your home, and more frequently around sick people or when you’re coming in contact with money. Especially in the winter, using hand lotion regularly can help you to keep your skin healthy from the combination of cold air and dryness associated with washing your hands. Washing your hands at other times may be important for you, too—for instance, when I worked in daycare, even if I wasn’t *doing* anything much outside, my hands always felt grubby when I came in even when they were visibly clean. I feel the same way after contacting the gym equipment when I coach in an elementary school! It might be just me, but I still don’t think getting an extra hand wash in is a bad idea.
And, I guess it’s paying off, because I haven’t been sick in months. Avoidance of common illnesses can be more difficult and more important for those of us with chronic disease. It only takes an extra 30 to 45 seconds to get a good hand-wash in, so it is worthwhile when trying to stay healthy!