SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands

It takes just a few moments to change the world…Wash your hands!

The World Health Organization (WHO) is asking recognizing the importance of hand washing through their global “Clean Hands Save Lives” campaign. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that “handwashing is like a ‘do-it-yourself’ vaccine. Along those same lines, WHO asks the general public to join them in highlighting the role of hand hygiene in combating antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

What is AMR?

According to WHO, “Antimicrobial resistance occurs when microorganisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites change in ways that render the medications used to cure the infections they cause ineffective. When the microorganisms become resistant to most antimicrobials they are often referred to as “superbugs.” This is a major concern because a resistant infection may kill, can spread to others, and imposes huge costs to individuals and society.”

One of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of antimicrobial resistant germs is good hand hygiene.

 

5 Simple Steps to Proper Hand Washing

Step 1: Wet your hands with warm or cold running water

Step 2: Apply soap. Apply enough to build up a good lather.

Step 3: Vigorously scrub hands, fingernails, and between fingers for 20 seconds.

Step 4: Rinse hands thoroughly under running water.

Step 5: Dry hands with a single use paper towel.

 

It’s the scrubbing action that matters most when washing your hands. The friction created when scrubbing hands with soap is responsible for loosening most of the dirt, grease, oils, and germs from your hands. Rinsing with water simply gets rid of those germs and viruses, washing them right down the drain.

As you touch people, surfaces, and objects throughout the day, you accumulate germs and possibly viruses on your hands. You may accidentally infect yourself with these germs and viruses by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Although it’s impossible to keep your hands germ-free, washing your hands frequently can help reduce the transfer of bacteria, viruses, and other disease-causing microbes to yourself, co-workers, friends, and loved ones.

 

When should you wash your hands?

• After using the restroom

• Before, during, and after preparing food, especially raw meat, poultry, or seafood

• Before and after meals and snacks

• After touching animals or handling animal waste

• After handling pet food or pet treats

• After changing a diaper

• Before and after treating a cut or wound

• Before and after caring for someone who is sick

• After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

• More frequently when you or someone in your home is sick

• After touching garbage

• Anytime your hands are dirty

 

What if no sink is readily available?

Hand sanitizers can be a good alternative if soap and running water aren’t available. But hand sanitizers are not going to completely kill all the germs and viruses on your hands. While alcohol-based formulas will kill surface germs, they don’t fully remove the remains from food or other grime stuck in the microscopic cracks of your hands. In turn, this means the hand sanitizer won’t reach and kill the germs lurking under the surface of that stuck-on food and grime. It’s just smarter to suds up when you can.

 

For more information, check out the CDC’s hand washing page and the WHO website.

Also, check out The Gallatin City-County Health Department’s Environmental Health Program website for more info about Healthy Homes & Environments, and feel free to contact us with any questions at 406-582-3120, ehs@gallatin.mt.gov.