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How To Practice Effective Hand Hygiene?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Our environment contains hundreds of thousands of bacteria, viruses and other pathogens invisible to the naked eye. Some of these microorganisms are essential for our survival and for the various processes inside our bodies. While the rest of the microorganisms can disrupt the system upon entering our bodies and make us fall sick. Hand hygiene is the practice of keeping our hands clean and free of dirt, bacteria, viruses, microorganisms and other pathogens. Hand washing or practising hand hygiene should be seen as an investment. An investment which would help secure a strong immune system and a potentially disease-free future.


Why should you practice hand hygiene?

The bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms present on our hands may enter our bodies through the food we eat if we do not clean our hands when required. We may also infect others with them unknowingly, especially the vulnerable section consisting of the sick, elderly and children. This is why practising hand hygiene is so important to keep diseases at bay.

How to effectively maintain hand hygiene

Washing one’s hands might sound simple and easy to do but, hand washing is an art which must be mastered in order to ensure that it is effective and that we are not simply wasting our time playing with water and soap or other products. So, what can be done to ensure you are washing your hands properly?

Follow the steps given below for a smooth and effective way of washing your hands with soap and water.

  • Rinse your hands thoroughly with clean water. The water can be either cold or warm. (Refrain from using hot water as it may strip your hands off of the essential oils and make them dry and flaky.)
  • Take generous amounts of the soap and rub your hands to work it into a rich lather.
  • Continue rubbing for at least 15 to 20 seconds.
  • Make sure to cover all the areas of your hands including your wrists, the front of your hands, the back of your hands, underneath your fingernails and between your fingers while washing your hands with soap and water.
  • Rinse the lather off your hands thoroughly under clean running water. (Remnants of the soap may cause skin irritation or rashes.)
  • Dry your hands with a clean hand towel or under a hand dryer.

Hand hygiene practices are paramount in reducing cross-transmission of microorganisms like covid, hospital-acquired infections and the risk of occupational exposure to infectious diseases. Effective hand washing prevented about 50% of covid infections.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

When to give attention to hand hygiene

You have learnt the process of effectively washing your hands with soap and water. But, which are the times when maintaining hand hygiene is a must? Washing your hands for one situation and forgetting to do so for another would render all your efforts futile. Leave no chance for the bacteria and other microorganisms to declare war inside your body and make you fall sick. Below is a list of situations before and/ or after which maintaining hand hygiene is compulsory. This list has only become lengthier because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

  • After using the toilet.
  • Before and after using menstrual hygiene products such as menstrual cups, tampons, etc., which are especially invasive in nature.
  • Before preparing food.
  • Before and after eating.
  • Before and after using contact lenses.
  • After touching stray animals.
  • After treating wounds.
  • Before and after taking care of sick people.
  • Before and after changing a diaper.
  • After sneezing, coughing or blowing your nose.
  • On entering homes after being outside.
  • Before and after doing skincare.
  • After disposing of garbage.
  • After touching food eaten by an animal.
  • After handling animal excreta.
  • After handling soil.
  • Before and after taking tablets or using ointments.
  • Whenever you feel the need to clean your hands.

Washing your hands too vigorously or drying them too forcefully can also irritate eczema and cause skin irritation. Frequent handwashing can also lead to other conditions like hand dermatitis due to irritant chemicals, be cautious of the frequency and the allergens in your hand wash/soap.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj – M.B.B.S, M.D.

Alternative products to use for maintaining hand hygiene

Apart from the traditional bar soaps, there are a number of alternative options available nowadays which cater to a variety of needs along with performing the primary duty of cleaning your hands. Some come in beautiful jewel shades with refreshing aromas, some help keep your hands soft, some help in reducing pigmentation due to exposure to the sun, while some others come with indicators of whether your hands have become free of germs or not. 

Let us have a look at alternative products that we can use instead of the traditional soap and water.

  • Liquid hand sanitizers with alcohol content- Liquid hand sanitizers containing a certain percentage of alcohol are more effective in getting rid of deadly germs and microorganisms and are thus preferred by surgeons. They are easy to apply and can be used on the go.
  • Liquid hand wash- Liquid hand washes are comparatively better than bar soaps in maintaining hygiene. Bar soaps may already be riddled with germs due to the previous washes. Liquid hand washes can be dispensed little at a time with no fear of previous infestations of germs.
  • Germ killing hand wipes- Germ killing hand wipes meant for single use can be a lesser effective alternative to soap, helpful in situations where no water, soap or hand sanitizers are available.
  • Spray bottles of hand sanitizers- Spray bottles of hand sanitizers are the quickest and easiest to use. It does not even require rubbing your hands. Just douse your hand with a generous amount of sanitizer and you are good to go.

Practising hand hygiene is extremely important to lead a happy and healthy life and to keep diseases at bay.

Also Read: Tingling in Hands: Exploring Causes and Potential Remedies

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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