Handwashing is the best form of self-defense when fighting germs, dirt, and bacteria that cause illness. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), catching a cold or related respiratory illness is reduced by over 20 percent with proper handwashing. On a daily basis it reduces risk of getting sick and spreading germs to others.
The benefits of doing this action are significant for people of all ages. People with weak immune systems reduce their risk of illness by roughly 60 percent. Children are likely to have fewer sick days from school. Adults can be more productive at work and experience less visits to the doctor. The following points offer further insight you may not know about handwashing.
- Wash hands in running water instead of using collected or standing water at the base of the sink or basin. This greatly reduces risk of recontamination, but if running water is not available this aspect may not have an effect on overall health. Studies have shown washing with warm water increases chances of skin irritation.
- Using soap effectively removes more germs and dirt from skin than using just water alone. Studies conducted have yet to show the type of soap used (plain soap or antibacterial) adds any health benefits other than helping to remove bacteria and germs.
- Lathering soap and creating friction by rubbing hands together helps lift germs and bacteria from skin surface and remove dirt and bacteria under nails. Areas under the nails are known to have higher concentrated amounts of germs.
- Wash hands with a scrubbing motion for roughly 15-30 seconds. The amount of time hands are washed may vary depending on activity conducted with hands. Few studies examine handwashing for different lengths of time, yet some suggest if hands are washed longer it may not affect the amount of germs removed if they were washed in less time.
- Rinsing hands after cleaning with soap helps reduce risk of skin irritation when washing away dirt and germs. While some like to use a paper towel to shut off water after rinsing, there has yet to be a study to prove it keeps people healthy.
- After handwashing dry hands thoroughly. Wet hands can make it easier to get and spread germs. Studies have yet to determine the best way to dry hands, but it is recommended to let them air dry or use a fresh towel.
- When soap and running water is not available health experts suggest using hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol to reduce amount of germs. Keep in mind hand sanitizer does not have the ability to kill all germs.