Hand hygiene is a timely subject these days as we all do what we can to help limit the spread of COVID-19.
I still remember the lessons on proper hand washing I received as a young medical student. I also remember the poor medical student (not me!) who was ordered out of the operating room in disgrace after a surgical nurse noticed that his sterile technique was less than perfect. Handwashing before surgery is a very serious affair in medical school – they want to make sure everyone involved does it perfectly every time. Proper hand hygiene every day can also help keep you healthy.
In general, hand hygiene is a thoroughly researched subject. Centers of excellence in research across the country have narrowed down the precise techniques crucial to keeping healthcare workers safe in every setting from the average ICU combating multi-drug resistant bacteria to Ebola outbreaks in Africa. But what about the average household in America? Do you know how you SHOULD wash your hands?
Here are the essential steps: Prep, Wet, Lather, Scrub, Rinse, Dry.
PREP: Remove all jewelry such as rings and watches before turning on the faucet.
WET: Wet your hands with cold, lukewarm, or warm water.
LATHER: Use soap and water to make a lather.
*Did you know that simple soap lather can disrupt the outer membrane of the SARS-COV-2 virus (that causes COVID-19) allowing the broken viral particles to be harmlessly rinsed away?
It does not have to be antibacterial soap and does not matter whether the soap is in bar form or a liquid.
SCRUB: This is the crucial step and the one most people can improve on. You must scrub thoroughly for at least 20 seconds and scrub every surface of your hands. Every surface means every side of each finger, between the fingers, the palms, the back of the hands, the fingertips, and even under the fingernails if possible.
RINSE: Rinse all the lather away with clean water, then turn off the faucet with a paper towel (to avoid re-contaminating your hands).
DRY: Dry your hands thoroughly because wet hands pick up germs more readily than dry hands.
There may be a shortage of hand sanitizer on the store shelves, but handwashing with soap is superior to hand sanitizer in preventing the spread of disease.
Stay safe and stay well!
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