Do you find you get sick throughout the year?
Have you tried all sorts of remedies, including airborne to no avail?
Even if you are washing your hands regularly, are you doing it properly?When working in the medical profession, one of the first things we are taught is the importance of washing your hands. The practice of washing hands has saved millions of lives by stopping the spread of infections. For example, prior to routine hand washing the outcomes of surgery patients were mostly negative. As a small child, my mother told me a story of how my father's meticulous hand washing prevented him from spreading a nasty germ, giardia, to my siblings and I. Our family physician was shocked that no one else in the family developed symptoms. But my father was extensively trained to wash his hands after any slight contamination from pharmacy school.
Why You Should Make Washing Your Hands RoutineWhile we are in the thick of cold and flu season, it is more imperative than ever to get a hand washing routine down. This is also important if you or a family member is immunocompromised (have higher susceptibility to germs) from a disease or chemotherapy. It is shocking the places where one can pick up infectious germs: door knobs, gyms, children, animals, etc. But just because germs are everywhere doesn't mean we should go into hibernation mode during the winter or any other season. Practicing good hand washing hygiene will prevent most transmission of infections. As the FDA states, "Washing with plain soap and running water is one of the most important steps consumers can take to avoid getting sick and to prevent spreading germs to others.” However, multiple hand washings in a single day can lead to chapped hands, which is further exacerbated by the winter weather. This should not stop you from washing your hands, especially since there are methods to prevent hand chapping. Dr. Bailey asserts:
As a dermatologist I want to elevate the hand washing practice to one of healing and hydrating skin care so that your hand skin stays healthy and comfortable as you wash away germs.
The Proper Way to Wash Your Hands and Prevent Hand ChappingAlways wash your hands when you suspect they have been contaminated such as before and after you eat, after using the restroom, touching objects in public spaces, etc. There is a method to properly wash your hands as well as keep them moisturized. We will go over how medical professionals are trained to wash their hands and how to incorporate these steps into your routine.
- With your hands pointing downward, allow the water to rinse your hands
- Next apply a gentle hypoallergenic soap and lather your hands thoroughly, including your wrists. If using a soap bar, rinse the soap bar before returning it to its soap dish.
- Firmly rub in circular motions the back of your hands, wrists, palms, fingers, and even in between the fingers. Perform this for at least 15 seconds or more.
- Using your opposite hands, clean your nail beds and underneath your fingernails.
- With your hands pointing downward again, rinse your hands as the water flows to your fingertips
- Dry off with a clean towel or paper towel
- Apply a rich moisturizing but non-greasy hand cream. Dr. Bailey's favorite is her Dry Skin Hand Cream.
“When I visited (my daughter) she tried your hand cream and said ‘mom this is better than anything I’ve ever tried including prescriptions like Halog."
Georgia H, Santa Rosa, CA
How To Test Your Hand Washing SkillsIf you are unsure if you are properly washing your hands, there is a fun way to test your skills. The only materials you will need are chocolate sauce, a gentle hand soap, and bright fluorescent light.
- Spread the chocolate sauce all over your hands
- Next start washing your hands in the methods described above. Be sure to get the nail beds and crevices, this is most often where people forget to clean
- Once you finish washing your hands, dry them off on a clean towel
- Finally place your hands underneath a bright fluorescent light and see how much chocolate sauce was left behind. If you find patches of chocolate residue, these are the areas you might be forgetting or need a more thorough scrub.
- Try the process again and see if you improved from your first go around.
Bottom Line for Washing Your HandsYou should never think twice about washing your hands. Not only will you be protecting your health but your community's health as well. Good hand hygiene does not have to equal chapped hands as Dr. Bailey has shown. If you have any other concerns about your hand washing techniques or issues, let us know in the comments below. Also if you tried the "hand washing test," brag about your skills by sharing a picture on our Facebook or Twitter with #NeverThinkTwiceHandWash.
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