After you use the bathroom, you wash your hands. Before you eat, you wash your hands. It’s pretty routine stuff. But does rubbing soap between the palms of my hands for 3 seconds and then rinsing them for 5 seconds really count as “washing my hands?” Does dipping my foot into a pool really count as “swimming?” I think not.
Here are the 5 simple steps of how to correctly wash your hands:
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
- Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
So why spend a whole minute washing your hands?
Just because your hands look clean doesn’t mean they are clean. “The average person touches their face three to five times every waking minute. In between that we’re touching door knobs, water fountains, and each other.” – Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet’s character), Contagion.
According to the CDC, washing your hands is the number one way to avoid catching a cold or especially a bacteria that could cause a food-borne illness, such as E. coli or Salmonella.
Ever heard of fomite? Fomite is an object that may be contaminated with infectious organisms and serve in their transmission. Examples include door knobs and water fountains. This is not to scare you into becoming a germaphobe, but pathogens do not always spread from person to person. It could also be person-fomite-person. Break the chain and wash your hands.
“The CDC estimates that each year roughly 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) gets sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne disease.” Click here for more information on foodborne diseases.
Quick scenario: The chef at your favorite restaurant makes you a salad. He washes his hands for 5 seconds and then mixes the greens with his bare hands. You eat the salad. What happens to you? Click here to find out!
I’m not asking you to obsess over your hands like the creepy hand model, but take a minute and please wash them the right way.
And for my fellow book worms and science enthusiasts, here’s a book on Urban Microbiology, courtesy of Google. Skip to page 558 for an excellent explanation on fomite transmission.