Washing hands timely and daily carries great significance when it comes to maintaining good hygiene and health. The COVID-19 pandemic served as the best medium to promote the significance of frequent hand-washing among people globally. We all remember the advertisements and our doctors urging us to wash our hands with soap and water, the first thing when we enter our home or office from outside or after touching anything that was brought from outside, and, if not possible to wash then at-least sanitize it with the alcohol-based sanitizers. Also, on 15th October Global Hand-Washing Day is celebrated every year to spread the importance of hand hygiene and hand washing amongst the general population and to motivate them to follow this healthy habit that could help prevent certain communicable diseases.

The history of how global hand washing day came to be celebrated is quite interesting. Although in many cultures and religious practices, hand washing is given importance, it was not as popular as it seemed before the 18th century. It was Dr. Ignaz Semmelwies, a Hungarian physician, who noticed the relationship between following proper hand hygiene and preventing infection among patients. He noticed that the women who gave birth in the maternity ward run by the doctors and medical students had a high percentage of developing fever and consequent death than the women giving birth in the midwives-run maternity ward. On close observation, he found that the doctors who attended to these women were coming directly after conducting autopsies and were carrying infectious organisms on their hands. On the other hand, the midwives did not conduct autopsies and, hence, there were lesser chances of infection in their patients.

He then made a rule in his hospital that the doctors attending the patients should be washing their hands with chlorine before attending to the patients. With this, the infection and the death rate reduced drastically. His idea was met with opposition from the other doctors. However, Dr. Ignaz Semmelwies is now recognized e as the father of hand hygiene.

Later on, the importance of hand hygiene was also promoted by Florence Nightingale, a nurse in the war hospital. Her practice of following good hand hygiene in her ward also helped reduce the number of infections among the patients in the war hospitals.

The first hand-washing guidelines were issued by the American center for disease control in the 1890s when a series of food-borne infections and health-care-associated infections caused public concern. Since then, these guidelines have been improvised from time to time.

On 15th October 2008, people worldwide celebrated global hand-washing day for the first time. This date has been selected by the UN general assembly. The theme for this year’s global hand washing day is ‘Unite for Universal Hand Hygiene.’.

Let us see more about the hand hygiene and hand washing guidelines –

Why the Hand-Washing is Important?

Frequent hand-washing can keep infectious diseases at bay. There are almost all infectious diseases which spread by direct contact, droplet infection, faeco-oral route, or through body fluids.  The most common infections that can be prevented by proper handwashing are the different types of diarrhea and stomach infections as well as respiratory tract infections. A report published in the morbidity and mortality weekly report on 2nd October 2012 wrote that handwashing with soap is estimated to reduce cases of diarrhea by 30% and respiratory infections by 21% in children under the age of 5.

How Do Germs Spread?

  1. After touching the infected surfaces, people, or things.
  2.  Blowing your nose, coughing, & sneezing into your hands later touching the common surfaces or other people’s hands.
  3. Preparing or eating food with unwashed hands.
  4.  Touching objects with soiled or unwashed hands after visiting toilets or washrooms.

When to Wash Your Hands?

  1. After visiting the toilet
  2. Before, during, or after preparing food
  3. Before & after eating food
  4. Before & After treating cuts & wounds
  5. After touching animal waste or feeding animal
  6. After touching your pets or pet foods
  7. After touching your kitchen waste or regular waste & dustbins
  8. After & before touching all your body fluids
  9. When your hands are invisibly dirty

How to Wash Your Hands?

  1. First wet your hands with clean, running tap water.
  2. Turn off the tap.
  3. Apply soap or handwash all over your both hands.
  4. Make it into a lather.
  5. Rub your palms together, clean the place under your nails, the tip of your fingers, the back of your hands, & in between your fingers
  6.  Scrub your hands for a minimum of 20 secs
  7.  Then rinse your hands under clean & running water.
  8.  Pat your hands dry with a clean towel or air dry them.

Common diseases that can be prevented by proper hand washing include common flu, pneumonia, stomach infections causing diarrhea, pink eye, etc.

Know that “Awareness is like the sun, when it shines on things, they are transformed.” Living a qualitative and healthy life is every person’s right.  So, practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands timely and enjoy a healthy life.

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