The recent spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has mobilized the medical world and healthcare providers to produce testing, treatments, and a vaccine. In the meantime, public health officials urge everyone to do keep doing what our preschool teachers taught us to do in order to prevent the spread of infection: Wash your hands.
But how can we know that our handwashing technique is germ-killing and preventing the spread of COVID-19? Is there a right way to wash hands?
Sometimes I catch my kids "handwashing," with an interesting, time-efficient procedure that involves running one slightly soap-covered finger underwater for 4 seconds. I'm not sure those hands are clean, and we may not be contributing to improved public health over here.
Handwashing is recommended before eating, before during and after preparing food, and before and after caring for someone who is vomiting or has diarrhea.
Washing hands is recommended after coughing, sneezing, touching your face, changing a diaper, helping a child in the bathroom, touching an animal, animal waste or animal food.
With handwashing, like, any infection-preventing health-improving strategy, there is a proper hand washing procedure.
The CDC advises 5 steps to effective handwashing. The acronym, if helpful is, WLSRD. Not helpful? Someone, please produce a jingle.
Wet hands completely with clean, warm water or cold water. According to the Center for Disease Control, the temperature of clean water does not seem to affect the removal of harmful bacteria. Hot water can also be a deterrent to young children washing hands for the appropriate time length.
Turn off the tap as to not waste resources.
Use soap. The CDC reminds us that antibacterial soaps do not more effectively prevent the spread of virus and infection. Even in critical times, plain soaps are fine - either bar soap or liquid soap.
Proper handwashing requires that you rub your hands together once the soap is applied. With soap, rub backs of hands, between each finger and underneath fingernails.
The next step as you wash your hands is to scrub your hands together for 20 seconds. With children achieve this time goal by singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.
Turn the water back on and rinse your hands under running, clean water. Remember bacteria grow in standing water so clean, running water should be used.
Proper Hand Washing Technique requires that you dry hands completely. Use a clean towel or disposable towel. Dry one hand and the other hand, recognizing that the germ transfer that results in flu or infection happens more easily with wet hands. Hand dryers are effective in public restrooms but often, especially with children, using a paper towel will ensure more thorough drying and reduce the spread of the bacterium.
If you're not able to use liquid soap and running water, substitute a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
While alcohol-based hand sanitizer produces clean hands, soap and clean water are still most effective, particularly if you follow these 5 steps. Just think, no one wants to think their surgeon is cleaning hands in a healthcare setting with a Bath and Body Works Twilight Woods Pocketbac.
Chances are most of us are washing our hands, just not as often as we should, or for as long as necessary. Slow down and take the time to ensure that you have clean hands.
In addition to the above times, practice handwashing properly with every transition - when you get to work or school, and when you get home.
If you have access to warm water, take the time to let the water heat up and have a brief mini-spa moment...A brief mini-spa moment in which you experience gratitude for a simple ritual that gives us significant power, no matter how young, over the spread of infection.