The burden infectious diseases places on public health, the cost of treatment and vaccines for prevention could be reduced by the simple act of Hand Washing.
The hand is a part of the body which is used in carrying out a lot of activities which makes it most vulnerable to being contaminated by microbes which are tiny living organisms that may or may not cause diseases, germs are a type of microbes which cause diseases and getting rid of them from the hand will require proper hand washing with soap and water as washing with only water won’t get the job done.
Touching of hand rails while climbing the stairs, counting money, touching the table, playing with toys, opening doors are some of the ways germs could get to somebody’s hand.
Frequent touching of the eyes, mouth and nose with unwashed hand could be a pathway for disease pathogens to get into the body due to the openings in these parts, germs from unwashed hand can also get into our foods and drinks during preparation or consumption which can multiply in some types of food or drinks under certain conditions and make people sick.
Hand washing with soap and water could therefore prevent diarrhea, respiratory infections, skin and eye infection.
Hand washing is not a new idea as it has been considered a measure of personal hygiene for centuries and has been embedded in religious and cultural habits. It’s importance was first brought to limelight by an Australian-Hungarian physician named Ignaz Semmelweis in 1858, which opened the era of infection control.
He demonstrated that Perpetual fever(also known as child bed fever) was contagious and it’s incidence could be reduced by appropriate hand washing. He introduced hand washing with chlorinated lime solution for interns who performed autopsies, this act reduces the incidence of the disease from 10 % to 1-2%.
His practice led to the acceptance of the Germ theory of disease causation by Louise Pasteur which says disease are caused by germs. He is considered the father of Antiseptic procedure.
WHY YOU SHOULD WASH YOUR HAND
The estimated global rate of hand washing after using toilet is only 11% which goes to show that he effect of unwashed hands is still underestimated, according to CDC ( centre for Disease Control), 1.8 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrhea diseases and pneumonia which are the top two killers of children around the world, these diseases are infectious and could be contacted when the hand touches contaminated surfaces which could then find it’s way into the body mostly through the mouth .
Hand washing with soap could protect about 1 out of every 3 young children who get sick with diarrhea and 1of 5 young children with respiratory infections . Preventing sickness caused by germs reduces the amount of antibiotics people use and the likelihood that antibiotic resistance will occur .
Hand washing minimizes the spread of influenza and prevents the spread of diarrrheal-related illnesses by 30% and respiratory illnesses by 20%, it also reduces infant mortality as some of the diseases that lead to death in children are infectious diseases which could have been prevented by hand washing with soap and water.
A lot of childhood dermatological disease are also caused by inadequate hand hygiene.
A study in 2013, showed that improved hand washing practices may lead to small improvement in the length of growth of children under 5 years of age by reducing the rate at which children die during this age range. Hand washing is the simple and most inexpensive way of preventing diarrhea and respiratory infections.
According to UNICEF, hand washing with soap could safe lives than a single dose of vaccine or medical intervention. “Health care associated infections(noncosomial infections) is a major burden around the world and threatens the safety and care for patients ” said Liam Donaldson, WHO patient safety and emergency , this aslo could be resolved by proper hand washing practices .
WHEN TO WASH OUR HANDS
Consistent hand washing at critical moments during the day prevents the spread of diseases like diarrhea and cholera which could be transmitted through fecal-oral routes( feaces to mouth) . These are some of the critical moments that hand washing is important :
After touching dirt.
Before and after eating .
After using the toilet.
Upon getting home from school or work.
After playing outside.
After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
Before and after cooking.
After touching animal’s
Before carrying a baby.
After a diaper change.
HOW TO WASH THE HANDS
Hand washing with soap wherever possible is recommended so as to reduce the amount of microbes and harmful chemicals on the hand. Hand washing is the act of cleaning the hand for the purpose of removing dirt and microorganisms. The steps in hand washing include:
1. Wet your hands with clean running water, then turn off the tap(to conserve water).
2. Lather your hands by rubbing them between soap, be sure to lather back of the hands, between the fingers and under nails.
3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
4. Rinse your hand with running water.
5. Dry your hands with clean paper towel or air dry them.
If soap is not available, you can use clean ash following the same steps.
An alcohol based hand sanitizer which contain at least 60-95% alcohol can also be used as they are the most effective types that can kill germs, using an hand sanitizer to get almost the same effect as using soap and water will require using the correct amount as directed by the manufacturer on the container of hand sanitizer and also ensure you do not wipe it off before it gets dried. Hand sanitizer though may not be effective if the hand is soiled with grease or soil
The use of running water in washing hand is recommended to avoid recontamination as standing water could have been contaminated through previously use, the temperature of the water haven been proven to have not effect on the effectiveness of microbes removal on the hand.
The use of soap and water rather than water alone in hand washing is prescribed because, soap lifts soil and microbes from skin and people tends to scrub hand more thoroughly when using soap hence a cleaner hand, several studies have shown till date that there is no added health benefit for consumer(professional health care setting not included) using antibacterial soap compared to plain soap.
Lathering and scrubbing hands create friction which lifts dirt, grease and microbes from the skin.
Microbes are present on all surface of the hand, with higher concentration under the nails, so the entire hands should be scrubbed. Drying of hands is just as important as washing as germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands.
GLOBAL HAND WASHING DAY
15th of October have been Set aside as the global hand washing day which was first celebrated in 2008 with over 120 million children around the world washed their hands with soap in more than 70 countries. It is a campaign to motivate and mobilize people around the world to improve their hand washing habits.
It is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to advocating for hand washing with soap as easy, effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives .
This year’s theme is ” Clean Hands for all” which follows the push to leave no one behind in the sustainable Development Agenda, that we all must be included when addressing hand washing disparities especially in the accessibility to running water which is a major issue in this country as majority of the citizens to no have access to clean running water which is a major requirement for effective hand washing.
Cultivating good hand hygiene is very important and can save lives and cost used in the treatment of diseases, teaching children at a very young age why they need to wash their hands at critical moments could save you a lot of stress. Proper hand washing education and continuous practice helps you and the entire community to stay healthy.
Start proper hand washing today, stay determined and it will become part of you!