Washing your hands is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick, according to a self-proclaimed hand hygiene expert. Dr. Daniel Diekema, an epidemiologist at University Hospitals in Iowa City, says today marks the first-ever Global Hand Washing Day. He says proper hand hygiene plays a critical role in infection control.
Diekema says, "Regular hand washing with soap and water — it’s important and this requires sometimes even counting at least 20 seconds of good, thorough scrubbing of your hands under the water after you’ve soaped up and lathered up and then rinsing your hands." If you don’t want to count to 20, some health experts recommend washing your hands over the length of time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song or recite the alphabet.
"That’s another good trick that some people use to try and make sure that they keep scrubbing their hands long enough to really decrease the bacteria and the viruses," Diekema says. A study from the American Society of Microbiology found 97% of females and 92% of males said they washed their hands after using the restroom, but in reality, only 75% of females and 58% of males actually washed.
Diekema’s not surprised. Diekema says, "We find the same thing in the hospitals and in the clinics, that physicians and nurses generally believe that they do perform hand hygiene every time they ought to, but when we send observers out to the units, we find that because it’s very busy, people are forgetful, that they don’t do it as often as they think."
There are situations in which hands should always be washed, including after using the toilet, changing a diaper and before handling food. Hand washing is especially important when you are caring for someone who’s sick or if you’re sick yourself.