4 things that will make you want to wash your hands right now


November 2018
Article by: Lynn Gaffney, RN, Infection Prevention Coordinator (pictured right)

We’ve been washing our hands since we were kids, but do we “really” wash our hands? Did you know proper hand hygiene includes the use of friction with soap and water on the palms of the hands, back of hands, between fingers and thumbs for at least 20 seconds?

Every year, I discuss the importance of handwashing at the third grade health fair. It’s one of my favorite activities! We educate students about the important times to wash hands: after using the bathroom, after petting or caring for pets, before eating and when hands are soiled. We talk about where germs hide and that we can reduce germs by cleaning our toys, remote controls and electronic devices. We also demonstrate what good handwashing looks like by using GlitterBug hand lotion and a black light.

Students apply the special lotion and look at their hands under the black light. This technique makes their germs visible. After the students wash their hands, they look at their hands under the black light again to see if they removed all the germs. It’s very enlightening for students to see when they’ve done a good job washing their hands, and where they’ve missed. We also perform this handwashing check with hospital staff to encourage mindfulness.

Our hands are the most common way germs are spread. Imagine if you had germy green goo on your hands and could see how it spread to your clothes, your computer, door handles, light switches and more. Would you change any of your hand washing habits?

If you need more convincing, here are four fun (and gross!) facts you might not know about hand hygiene:

  1. The most important times for hand washing are before preparing food and after going to the bathroom. Only 20 percent of people wash their hands before preparing food. And fewer than 75 percent of women and 50 percent of men wash their hands after going to the bathroom. Yuck!
  2. Most bacteria on our hands is on our fingertips and under our nails. The average person spends less than 10 seconds washing their hands. They often clean their palms and miss everything else. For every 15 seconds we spend washing our hands, 10 times more bacteria is removed.
  3. Hand washing is proven to reduce absences, sick days and lost productivity. A study of Detroit school children showed that those who washed their hands had 24 percent fewer sick days due to colds and 51 percent fewer sick days due to upset stomachs.
  4. Using alcohol-based hand sanitizer does not cause antibiotic resistance. They kill germs in a different way than antibiotics, so there is no chance for germs to adapt or develop resistance.
Keeping our hands clean at work and at home is one of the best steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. But if you or your family do end up with a nasty bug, our clinics are here to help. Make an appointment at one of our clinics by calling 715-268-8000.

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