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Microbes are all over the place. It is easy to catch a cold or a virus from someone through contact. It is just as easy to contaminate food by touching it with dirty hands. Then, we suffer weeks of pain and misery due to illness. Washing our hands properly can save us from common illnesses and can also prevent some pretty severe health issues. October 15th has been declared as Global Handwashing Day and the drive around it is to properly educate people about the significance and benefits of washing hands thoroughly using soap and water. Let us understand why this initiative is important across the globe today.
The Significance of Global Handwashing Day
Clean hands are a way to save lives. Global Handwashing Day is an initiative which brings millions of people across countries together to help them understand, via practical initiatives, the importance of washing one’s hands with soap. The core beliefs of Global Handwashing Day are:
- Supporting and promoting a global culture of washing hands with soap and water.
- Understanding the state of handwashing across different countries.
- Raising awareness about the positive effects of washing hands with soap.
Why is it Important to Use a Proper Technique to Wash Your Hands?
Microbes on someone’s hands can make you contract the common cold, eye infections, certain skin conditions, or even gastroenteritis. Pathogens that are lodged in the natural oils of our palm cannot be dispelled by simply rinsing with water. It has been noticed that effectively washing hands has contributed to saving approximately 4 million children from fatalities before the age of 5. Washing our hands is said to wash off dangerous germs that are responsible for causing pneumonia, malaria, or even diarrhoea, which can be fatal for small babies. Washing hands with soap after using the toilet, changing soiled diapers, or handling sanitaryware can be crucial to our wellness. Similarly, washing hands with soap before handling food and before touching babies is also important.
What Illnesses Can You Be Prone to If You Don’t Wash Your Hands Regularly?
It is easy to fall prey to illness due to contaminated food or hand-to-hand contact when our hands are not very clean. Here are some diseases that can affect you because of unclean hands:
1. Nosocomial Infections
A nosocomial infection is said to be something that is contracted because of infections, pathogens, and toxins that typically rest in certain places like hospitals. They are also commonly called Hospital-Acquired Infections. Common nosocomial infections are urinary tract infections and Surgical Site Infections (SSI).
2. Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a very contagious viral disease that causes inflammation of the liver. It can cause pain in the stomach, jaundice, nausea, and loss of appetite. It can be easily transmitted through contaminated food and water. Faecal matter that enters food through poorly washed hands can result in this disease.
3. Airborne Illnesses
There are several airborne illnesses that can be spread through contact. Common colds, respiratory tract infections, influenza, and meningitis are some of them. These diseases have several symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, watery eyes, and swollen glands. Our hands are in contact with all these bodily fluids that are discharged during the illness, and improper washing of hands can easily spread germs.
4. Viral Gastroenteritis
This is a disease caused by norovirus. It enters our gastrointestinal system through improperly cooked food that has been contaminated. It causes abdominal cramping, diarrhoea, joint aches, and muscular pain.
5. Skin and Ear Infections
Microbes can enter small cuts, sore patches on the skin, or broken surfaces of our skin and ears. These microbes are usually transmitted through hands that have been in contact with soil, pets, or faeces. Skin and ear infections can cause swelling, redness, sores, burning, or even pustulation.
The Importance of Washing Hands Before Preparing Food
Spreading of illnesses through contaminated food can lead to trouble. Food workers in restaurants are known to be the leading cause of food-borne diseases. If you work in a restaurant, it is crucial to follow safety standards and thoroughly wash your hands after handling raw meat (which contains E.coli), using tobacco, going to the restroom, handling dirty or soiled equipment, and processing raw animal products. This can drastically reduce incidents related to gastrointestinal diseases.
How to Wash Your Hands Properly
Here is how you can wash your hands properly:
- Wet your hands with running, clean water.
- Apply soap and create a sufficient lather by rubbing your palms together.
- Scrub the back of your palms, your nails, and in between your fingers thoroughly.
- Scrub for a minimum duration of 20 seconds for impact.
- Rinse your hands properly under running and clean water.
- Dry your hands using a clean tissue or a towel.
Ways to Celebrate Global Handwashing Day at Home
You can make handwashing important and be a part of Global Handwashing Day celebrations, right from the comfort of your home! Celebrate the goodness of washing hands with your children by doing the following:
1. Create a Handwashing Chart
Make a chart that reminds your children to wash their hands throughout the day. Make sufficient columns for each occasion that require them to wash their hands. Give them reminders for hand washing before eating, after using the potty, sneezing, playing outdoors or with pets etc., and make them tick the column after they complete washing their hands. Give them treats and stickers to make it fun.
2. Make it Fun by Singing
Pick a 20-second rhyme or jingle and make them scrub their hands for the duration of the song. It helps them remember how long they need to scrub their hands for.
3. Do the Glitter-finger Test for Germs
This is one of the Global Handwashing Day activities that can be messy but it is a great way to educate children on how germs spread. Take powdered glitter of two colours and sprinkle the first colour on your child’s palm. Sprinkle some amount of the second colour onto your palms. Now, play with your child, shake hands, and do some activities that will require you to hold hands with the child. Once you’re done, ask your child to examine his hands and play-area to check for the amount of glitter transferred from all the contact you’ve had with him. Remind him that germs are like the glitter and that they can spread through mutually touching the same things, by shaking hands, and playing together.
In addition to washing our hands well, it is important to teach our children the basics of hygiene so that they can live healthier and safer lives. Make handwashing fun and improve your child’s quality.