Hand washing – is there a best way to do it?

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Effective hand hygiene can help protect from illness and prevent the spread of germs. Learn more about when and how to wash your hands, the importance of using soap and water, and what you can do if soap and clean water are not available.

By Allianz Worldwide Care | June 20, 2017

Allianz Care - hand washing best practice

Good hand hygiene is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others.

Although there’s plenty of evidence that hand washing can reduce the spread of disease, a 2013 study of over 3,000 people, found that only 5% washed their hands properly all the time.

When should you wash your hands?

Germs accumulate on our hands as we go about our daily activities, touching surfaces, objects and other people.

Once the germs are on our hands we can easily transfer them to our eyes, nose or mouth and cause infection.

Although it's impossible to keep hands germ-free, frequent hand washing can help limit the transfer of bacteria and viruses.

Always wash your hands:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after treating wounds, giving medicine, or caring for a sick or injured person
  • Before and after inserting or removing contact lenses
  • After using the toilet or changing a nappy
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing into your hands
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • After handling rubbish

How should you wash your hands?

It's generally best to wash your hands with soap and water. Follow these simple steps:

  • Wet your hands with clean running water, either warm or cold
  • Apply soap
  • Lather well by rubbing hands together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers, and under your nails
  • Rub your hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds
  • Rinse your hands well with clean water
  • Dry your hands with a clean towel or air dryer

Should you use antibacterial soap instead of regular soap?

Research has found that antibacterial soaps, such as those containing triclosan, are no more effective at killing germs than regular soap, nor are they any better than regular soap at preventing symptoms of an infection.

Does the water need to be hot for cleaning hands?

The temperature of the water has no impact on the effectiveness of handwashing. Although high heat kills bacteria, for heat to impact hand washing the temperatures needed would result in burning the skin.

A warm temperature is preferred, as if the water is too hot or too cold you may spend less time washing your hands.

What should you do if you don’t have soap and water?

If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60% alcohol. Although alcohol-based hand sanitisers can remove many germs, they are not as effective when hands are visibly dirty or greasy.

When using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser follow these simple steps:

  • Apply the product to the palm of your hand
  • Rub your hands together
  • Rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry

Effective hand-washing offers great rewards for very little effort. Try to take more time and care when hand washing.

Following the tips above could play a major role in protecting your health and the health of your family.

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