During the influenza pandemic of 1918, doctors realized that many lives could be saved by regular handwashing. A worldwide public health campaign followed, yet although it successfully reduced the overall burden of illness, a lot of people still don’t wash their hands regularly enough. If you do and you want to make sure you’re doing it effectively, what are the most important times to do it?
After You Use the Toilet
When you use the toilet, no matter how careful you are, germs from your nether regions can easily transfer themselves onto your hands. Washing your hands with soap and hot water kills most of these germs. Using a hand sanitizer kills even more, and you can do this even when you’re out and about and don’t have access to water – but you will need one that contains alcohol in order to kill viruses like COVID-19. Any physical contact with the toilet, e.g. when cleaning, should be followed by hand washing.
When You Enter or Leave Your Home
Washing your hands as soon as you get home reduces the risk of you bringing in germs from outdoors. For the same reason, you should do it when you’ve been handling items from outside, such as deliveries – don’t forget to order the hand sanitizer you’ll need in good time and let that alcohol and those antibacterial essential oils do their job. Washing your hands before you go out means that if you or somebody you live with is infected, there’s less risk of you carrying that infection to other people.
Before and After Preparing Food
Lots of germs get into our bodies through what we eat. We may accidentally transfer them onto food from dirty hands (even if they look clean). Some foods naturally contain germs that are killed by cooking but can get onto our hands during the preparation stages – so, for instance, if you’ve been handling raw meat, you need to wash your hands so that you don’t accidentally infect yourself or others.
After You Cough or Sneeze
Where possible, coughs and sneezes should always be caught by handkerchiefs. If that’s not possible, it’s better to cover your face with your elbow than your hands. Nevertheless, even when we’re careful, droplets from our lungs (sometimes too small to see) can get onto our hands this way, and they can contain germs. The best way to be safe is to wash or sanitize your hands as soon as possible.
Before You Assist a Vulnerable Person
If you look after a baby, an elderly person or someone who is ill (including people with long-term illnesses like diabetes or asthma) it’s all the more important to be careful. Where possible, you should wash your hands before interacting with them. If they can’t do it for themselves, you will also need to provide assistance to make sure that their hands get cleaned regularly.
Although this may seem like a lot of effort, you’ll soon form good habits and find that you can take the necessary precautions without disrupting your routine. You’ll feel better for it, and you might avoid an infection.