This column appears in the Nevada Appeal Wednesday health pages. It addresses topics related to the health of our community.
On a day-to-day basis, our hands touch the surfaces of many objects. You wake up, look at your bacteria-infested phone that has touched hundreds of surfaces and get ready and drive to work by touching the steering wheel that has probably never been cleaned since the day you bought the car. You then proceed to your normal work day by touching many surfaces with your unclean hands.
There is not a day where we do not use our hands to get tasks done. At any given time, your hand carries thousands of different bacteria. Most bacteria are not harmful to your body, and your immune system naturally can fight them off. But there are some bacteria like E. Coli, salmonella and norovirus that can cause diarrhea, respiratory infections and hand-foot disease. These strains of bacteria are easily passed on to others when you use the toilet, then proceed to do daily tasks without washing your hands.
The spread of germs happens very easily; in fact, it happens when you touch any surface and then touch your eyes, mouth and nose. Germs can even be spread when your hands come into contact with food, drinks and other people.
In order to stop the transfer of germs from person to person, it is important to practice proper handwashing techniques. To do so, follow these five easy steps:
1. Wet your hands with warm water.
2. Apply antibacterial soap.
3. Scrub your hands together. Make sure to scrub all surfaces such as the back of your hand, in between your fingers and, most importantly, under your nails.
4. Time yourself for at least 20 to 40 seconds and rinse your hands again under warm water.
5. Dry your hands using a clean towel.
Although handwashing is the best way to get rid of bacteria, if you do not have soap and water nearby, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the next best option. Be sure that the sanitizer you use contains at least 60 percent alcohol, which will kill most of the bacteria on your hands. When using the rubbing alcohol, make sure you:
1. Apply at least a nickel-sized amount.
2. Rub all surfaces of your hand such as the back of your hand, in between your fingers and, most importantly, under your nails.
3. Rub the gel for at least 20 seconds or until your hands are completely dry.
It is important to practice hand hygiene at all times, but the most important times to implement it is:
After using the toilet.
Before and after preparing food.
After changing a diaper.
After blowing, sneezing or coughing.
After touching an animal.
After being around someone who has vomited or has diarrhea.
After touching garbage.
By doing something as simple as washing your hands for 20 to 40 seconds, you can protect yourself and others around you from thousands of strains of bacteria that can be harmful. These five simple steps in proper handwashing techniques can be implemented in a household, work, school and, most importantly, food preparation setting.
In a household setting, make it a rule that everyone living in the home has to wash their hands every time they use the bathroom, before and after each meal and after playing with toys or outside.
At work, put signs up that tell employees to wash their hands after they use the restroom and before and after they eat.
At schools, educate students about the risk of not practicing safe hand hygiene, and have students wash their hands before and after eating as well as after coming back from recess.
In a restaurant setting, the fastest way to infect thousands of people by not washing your hands is through the preparation of food. When cooks use the restroom and forget to wash their hands, they can have poop particles under their fingernails and transfer it to food that is being made for public consumption. It is crucial to practice hand hygiene no matter what field of work you are in, in order to keep yourself and others healthy.
Carson City Health and Human Services wishes for everyone to stay healthy this holiday season by washing their hands. For more information on handwashing, visit www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html. For additional resources and information about Carson City Health and Human Services programs and services, check out our website at www.gethealthycarsoncity.org, “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/cchhs, follow us on Twitter at @cchealthed, call us at 775-887-2190 or visit us at 900 E. Long St. in Carson City.