I hope you all had a restful holiday, if you’re in Nigeria.
After I put up my post on how to wash your hands, someone asked the question, ‘when should we wash our hands?’ And really that’s a valid question, even if it’s one that we all take for granted.
So, I reproduce below, a post I had written last year on hand washing which includes when to wash those hands.
It will be global hand washing day on the 15th of October. A friend of mine jokingly said to me, ‘seriously?!’ WHO has time! Hand washing day indeed! Why can’t they face more important issues?’ Are you in the same boat with my friend? Well here’s news for you!
Diseases like respiratory infections and diarrhea cause up to 20 percent of the burden of disease in children. It has been found that in places where hand washing was instituted, this burden of disease has been cut by about 50%. This is a huge number…from hand washing alone! In hospitals, it was also found that the spread of hospital acquired infections was encouraged by lack of hand washing and so WHO instituted a global campaign for health workers clearly specifying when hands have to be washed.
So, practical lessons: mums wash your hands before you make your baby’s/family’s food, after you change baby’s diaper, after you blow your nose, after cleaning etc. Ensure that people don’t come in from the market (or wherever) and head straight to pick up your baby and kiss your baby…no matter how well meaning their gestures might be. Encourage them to wash their hands before they do so…or you could buy a hand sanitizer and get them to use it on their hands before picking up your precious bundle of joy. It may be awkward when you start off insisting on these, but pretty soon everyone gets used to it…trust me, I know from personal experience (I probably got away with more because my in-laws probably just thought I was a weird Okoro girl). Tips: remember that sanitizers are only useful for hands that are not visibly dirty. For visibly dirty hands, you’ve got to wash! Also remember that when choosing the sanitizer, look for products that have up to 60 percent alcohol and ensure that when you use it, you rub until your hands are dry.
We should ensure that we teach children and indeed remind ourselves to wash hands after playing or doing stuff outside the house, before eating, after using the toilet, after playing with pets or disposing of their wastes (in fact children should not be encouraged to play too close to their kennels or sheds), before cooking and even after handling dirty laundry! The list is endless…but that’s also because the possible means of contaminating our hands are endless and the germs find easy routes into the body once we touch our hands, mouths, eyes etc. So we can’t be too careful…and just in case you wondered, ‘no, you don’t have to wear a face mask like dear Michael Jackson and/or gloves all the time’ to protect you from the many germs that exist! That might be…well, for want of a better word, perhaps just a teensy weensy bit extreme!
Finally, remember that hand washing, to be done right, has to be with soap! If you haven’t washed with soap, you haven’t really done much. Tips for effective hand washing: wet your hands with water, apply soap, then scrub thoroughly paying attention to your nail beds, in between fingers, palms and back of hands. Then rinse thoroughly before drying your hands.
Borrowing very liberally from WHO’s hand washing campaign, I say ‘save lives: clean your hands!’
Other useful posts include:
Here’s to a healthier you!