Hand Hygiene 101 | health beat
Hosting a holiday party is a surefire way to attract family and friends, but sometimes it will bring in uninvited guests: germs.
Amidst your festive gatherings this season, it’s important to keep good hygiene in mind.
Good hand hygiene is the single most important thing you can do to keep yourself and your loved ones from getting sick, Mallory Davis, PhD, chief infection control specialist at Corewell Healthsaid.
“Germs and bacteria spread through our hands because they touch everything,” Dr. Davis said. “The only way to get germs off your hands is to wash them.”
You should wash your hands before eating and after using the toilet. You should wash before cooking and after touching raw meat or eggs. You should also wash your hands after blowing your nose or sneezing and before touching your face.
“If I’m just sitting here working, I won’t be washing my hands often,” Dr. Davis said. “But if I blow my nose or take a bathroom break, I always wash my hands.”
Surfaces and objects we don’t necessarily think of as being covered in germs — TV remotes or doorknobs, for example — may actually harbor more germs than a toilet, Dr. Davis said.
Anything that people handle on a regular basis — a shopping cart, a gas station pump, an ATM keypad, elevator buttons — can harbor germs.
Mobile phones are particularly problematic.
“Think about it,” said Dr. Davis. “Everyone takes their phone to the bathroom and you pass your phone around to show others pictures all the time. A cell phone collects all the germs from any dirty surface you might touch.
So if you’ve touched a lot of objects or surfaces, it’s a good idea to wash your hands. It is also safely recommended to you clean your cell phone about once a day.
sense of soap
A smart tactic to encourage frequent hand washing: find a soap that smells good.
“It will get you to use the soap more and encourage you to wash your hands more regularly,” Dr. Davis said. “And the same goes for hand sanitizer – find one with a scent you enjoy.”
Also, you don’t need to be picky about the type of soap.
“Any soap works well with water,” Dr. Davis said. “It doesn’t matter as long as you use soap.”
time and technology
It is also important to wash well.
“We always say focus on the palms of your hands, the backs of your hands, and between your fingers, your thumbs, and your fingertips,” she said.
Aim for about 15 to 20 seconds of washing. A good trick is to sing “Happy Birthday” twice or say the ABC in your head, it’s about the same length.
Also set the correct water temperature.
“The water temperature should be comfortable, so you’ll do it for 20 seconds,” she said. “If it’s too hot or too cold, it can impact how much time you spend washing your hands.”
Do you have disinfectant?
In general, hand sanitizers and hand washing are both methods acceptable to kill germs.
But if your hands are visibly soiled, opt for soap and water. Handwashing provides physical removal of bacteria when you scrub with soap and water, Dr. Davis said.
Hand sanitizer kills germs on contact, but if you use hand sanitizer frequently, it’s also a good idea to carry moisturizer with you.
“There’s a risk of dry or cracked skin on your hands if you use hand sanitizer too often,” Dr. Davis said. “Moisturize after sanitizing and moisturize after washing to keep your skin healthy.”