Practicing good hand hygiene is important to avoid getting sick and spreading germs. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water. Initiated by Dr Will Sawyer, a family physician and infection control specialist and his companion Henry the Hand, National Hand Washing Awareness Week is celebrated during the first week of December each year. The campaign provides information about the importance of hand washing as the best way to prevent epidemics or pandemics. This year, National Hand Washing Awareness Week is being observed from December 2-8.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand washing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick. The motto of this campaign is: ‘Spread the Word Not the Germs’. In addition, follow the four key principles endorsed by the American Medical Association (AMA) and American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP):
- Wash your hands when they are dirty and before eating.
- Do not cough into your hands.
- Do not sneeze into your hands.
- Above all, do not put your fingers into your eyes, nose, or mouth.
The CDC recommends washing your hands: before, during, and after preparing food, before eating food, before and after caring for someone who is sick, before and after treating a cut or wound, after using the toilet, after changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet, after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, after touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste, after handling pet food or pet treats, and after touching garbage.
Washing with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of microbes on your hands. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Even though alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, it does not eliminate all types of germs and might not remove harmful chemicals.
Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community – from the home and workplace to childcare facilities and hospitals. Global Hand Washing Day celebrated each year on October 15 also spreads awareness and understanding of the benefits of hand washing with soap.