How many times have we heard “did you wash your hands?” or “go wash your hands first” from our parents as a child? There is a reason parents insisted on such a simple task time and again.
Global Hand Washing Day is a campaign to raise awareness of the importance of hand washing and to encourage people to develop a regular hand washing habit. Initiated in 2008 in response to increased infant mortality rates mostly due to diarrhea and respiratory disorders such as pneumonia, it takes place every year on 15th October.
Washing your hands right after you use the washroom seems pretty obvious to us right? But According to a Gilani Research Foundation Survey carried out by Gallup Pakistan, only 52% of our population unquestionably washes their hands after using the washroom.
I won’t bore you with the facts about the campaign itself, but understand why it is such a big thing.
Why is hand washing important?
Majority of the population of Pakistan does not wash their hands when necessary, due to a lack of awareness, lack of attention, unavailability of clean water and other resources or even simply due to a lack of habit.
We carry millions of germs on our hands each day, and bring in more by the things we do such as sneezing in our hands or touching pet animals. Kids, unaware of the germs, specially carry them when they play in the dirt or touch things on the ground.
When we unknowingly touch these dirty hands up to our eyes, nose or mouth (maybe via food), we allow germs to enter our body, which soon infects us and spreads to the entire family in no time. The infection can be as common as the flu or as dangerous as hepatitis (hepatitis A and E virus spread via feco-oral route) or the measles-causing rubella virus – commonly residing in cats.
Washing your hands is considered the first line of defense against germs. It is almost as good as vaccination. Simply washing our hands with soap – especially if it is anti-bacterial – and water prevents the germs from ever getting a chance to enter our body. Something as simple as washing hands reduces mortality rates caused by diarrhea in children under five years of age by almost half and mortality due to respiratory infections by a quarter.
Proper way of washing hands
We learned why it is important to wash hands. It is also important to learn how to properly wash your hands to get rid of the maximum amount of germs.
- Wash hands after using the washroom, coughing or sneezing, touching dirty hands or contaminated surfaces, changing diapers, touching a pet, visiting someone sick, before touching or preparing food and feeding a child
- While extreme hot water is not necessary, you should still use warm water. Cold water is inefficient in getting rid of bacteria
- Use soap, rinsing with water alone won’t do
- Make sure to clean between the fingers, under and around the nails. These are the places the germs like to reside. Don’t forget to clean the wrist as well
- Lather for at least 15 to 20 seconds before washing it off
- Dry your hands with a clean towel or tissue
Remember, a simple habit of washing hands on a regular basis can save you another visit to the doctor. It prevents the infection and spreading of disease. So wash your hands regularly, preach to others – especially the young – and stay healthy.