DECEMBER IS HAND WASHING AWARENESS MONTH
December has several health topics including Hand Washing, AIDS and Influenza Vaccination, however, our emphasis today is Hand Washing. I know most people are tired of washing their hands and using hand sanitizers, but the practice saves lives. In the mid-1800s, studies by Ignaz Semmelweis in Vienna, Austria, and Oliver Wendell Holmes in Boston, USA, showed that hospital-acquired diseases were transmitted via the hands of health care workers. The Austrian recommended they scrub their hands in chlorinated lime solution before every patient contact and following that, the death rate fell to 3%. Many studies show that hospital-acquired infections are often transmitted by health workers who do not practice hand washing with soap and water.
Fast forward to 2020 and 2021 in the age of COVID. It has been clearly proven that the keys to preventing community transmission of the different variants of the coronavirus are Hand washing with soap and water, use of Hand Sanitizers if the former are not readily available, Physical distancing and wearing of masks covering the nose and mouth. Getting vaccinated and “Boostered” if available, are key to avoiding serious disease, hospitalization and death. Worldwide, it’s the unvaccinated who are occupying most ICU beds and needing oxygen. Yes, I acknowledge that we are all tired and exhausted, but now is not the time to let down our guard. Please let us continue to observe these public health principles which have been established for years to reduce any infectious disease transmission.
Some interesting facts about Hand Hygiene:
Hand Washing with soap and water remove all types of germs from hands, harmful chemicals like pesticides and metals like lead and mercury. According to the CDC, hand washing is best when your hands are visibly dirty, after using the restroom, after changing a child’s diaper, before eating or preparing foods, caring for sick people, and before and after handling foods if in the food industry. Others include after petting animals, and especially after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. It is important that sneezing or coughing be done into the elbow and not into the palms; lastly, one has to avoid picking one’s nose, but to use tissue and dispose of it safely followed by hand washing.
Hand sanitizers act by killing germs on the hands and skin and also reduce the number of germs. This results in decreased chance of infection. Hand sanitizers may not remove harmful chemicals or metals mentioned above. The alcohol content should be at least 60% and after use, one has to allow the hand sanitizer to dry off by rubbing hands together because wiping off reduces its effectiveness.
Both methods may take about 20 seconds to have a beneficial effect. It is timed by singing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song twice. Let us continue to observe Covid Public Health protocols to keep us all alive. This is the last health awareness topic for the year 2021.
Happy New Year and Blessings to You.
If you enjoy these health tips share them
Dr. Barbara Entsuah (Family Medicine Specialist, Author)
Vice President Gateway of Hope Inc.
“Reaching the lost, Healing the hurting, Bringing Hope to the Hopeless”