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Please Wash Your Hands—December 2nd–8th Is National Handwashing Awareness Week


Why can’t we wash our hands more often? 

( 2008 update–National Handwashing week for 2008 is December 7-13.) 

National Handwashing Awareness Week, which runs from December 2 through December 8, 2007, is a chance to renew your commitment to handwashing.   

The picture above is of Henry The Hand. Henry is an advocate of handwashing. He is pictured here with Rob Portman of Cincinnati who, regretfully, was once my U.S. Representative. Though it does seem Mr. Portman and I agree on handwashing.   

Dr. Will Sawyer of the Cincinnati area owns the copyright to Henry.  

Here are some tips on good handwashing—

There’s a right way to wash your hands. A splash of water and a drop or two of soap won’t do the trick. Follow these simple steps to keep your hands clean:

  • Use warm water (not cold or hot).
  • Use whatever soap you like. Antibacterial soaps are popular but regular soap works fine. If you suspect that your hands have come into contact with someone with an infection, think about using an alcohol hand sanitizer.
  • Rub your hands together vigorously and scrub all surfaces: Lather up on both sides of your hands, your wrists, between your fingers, and around your nails. Wash for 15 seconds – about how long it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.”
  • Rinse well under warm running water and pat dry with a clean towel.
  • In public restrooms, consider using a paper towel to flush the toilet and open the door because toilet and door handles harbor germs. Throw the towel away after you leave.

To prevent chapping or dry skin, use a mild soap with warm water, pat rather than rub hands dry, and apply a moisturizing lotion liberally afterwards.

When there is no soap or water available, waterless hand soaps or scrubs are a good alternative. They’re usually available as a liquid, wipes, or towelettes, and often come in small travel sizes that are perfect for keeping in your book bag, car, locker, purse, or sports bag.

Remember, proper and frequent hand washing is the key to preventing the spread of many common infections. So hum a few verses of “Happy Birthday” and lather up!

Here is a link to a  recent New York Times column about the lack of handwashing in our society. There is also a history of handwashing in the piece. It was written by Katerine Ashenburg who is author of the book The Dirt on Clean: An Unsanitized History.

Here are the last two paragraphs of this article—

By the mid-19th century, people were timidly experimenting with bathing, but scientists still believed that disease spread through decaying matter and bad smells. When Ignaz Semmelweis insisted that Viennese doctors wash their hands in between performing autopsies and delivering babies, he was ridiculed, even though the practice greatly reduced death from puerperal fever. Semmelweis’s simple but radical idea gained currency only in the 20th century. The germ theory slowly triumphed — but until the development of sulfa and antibiotics, almost the only way to fight microbes was by washing them off.

Even with antibiotics, washing off microbes remains an excellent idea. This ancient mark of courtesy is now celebrated in public health campaigns, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has anointed it as “the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection.” So, learn from science as well as the wisdom of our ancestors, and wash your hands.

And look folks, as it says above, if you use a public restroom, wash your hands, and then touch the door handle with your bare hands–you’ve lost all the good effects of your handwashing. Open the door with a paper towel in hand.

December 1, 2007 Posted by | Books, Cincinnati, Please Wash Your Hands | , , , , | 6 Comments