We all know that washing our hands are super important in the war against germs, right?

So, here’s a scary poll: A Michigan State University study found that 95% of bathroom users didn’t wash their hands for 15 to 20 seconds – the length of time recommended to kill infection causing germs. Even worse: A third didn’t bother to use soap, and 10% skipped washing their hands altogether. In fact, estimated global rates of handwashing after using the toilet are only 19%! Yuck!

15 October is Global Handwashing Day. The first Global Handwashing Day was held in 2008, when over 120 million kids around the world washed their hands with soap and running water in more than 70 countries. The result? Well, since 2008, community and national leaders have used Global Handwashing Day to spread the word; building sinks and tippy taps demonstrating the value of clean hands.

Millions of people were dying each year before this initiative. The number of children losing their lives annually to diarrhoea and pneumonia has dropped from a staggering 3,4 million to 1,7 million. Yup, the evidence is clear, clean hands saves lives. Simple as that.

Need more convincing? Icky germs such as ecoli and staphylococcus can be incredibly easy to pick up. And, once these bacteria get into your system (whether it’s from touching your mouth or your sandwich), they can cause infections or viruses. Your best defence is to lather up especially during key times such as after using the restroom, before preparing food, before eating, and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.

A new study in the Journal of Environmental Health suggests that 95% of people don’t wash their hands the right way. Here’s how to wash your hands according to a five step process:

  • Wet your hands with clean running water, turn off the tap and apply soap.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing palm to palm together, also cleaning between your fingers.
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end, twice.
  • Remove all soap by rinsing your hands under clean running water. Use a towel to turn off the faucet.
  • Dry your hands by using a clean towel, or airdry them.

Thing is, germs lurk everywhere; on handles, doorknobs, money, restaurant menus, pets and for sure on almost everything at the doctor’s office. However, is it possible to wash your hands too much, killing off even the good bacteria in the process? Overdoing it can take its toll. If you wash your hands too often you could remove the healthy oils and good bacteria that actually defend against disease. So, use your common sense and wash your hands when it is obviously called for. If you bend down to pick a pen up from the floor or give your dog a pat on the head, simply carry on with your day.

Also, if you think you’re in the clear because you’re a hand sanitizer junkie, think again. Alcohol based formulas will kill surface bacteria, but they won’t remove residue from food or bacteria below the surface. Meaning? Hand sanitizer should be your back-up plan, the smart choice will be soap and water whenever you can.

Keeping our hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

Source: betterhealth.vic.gov.au, blogs.cdc.gov, yourfamily.co.za, huffingtonpost.com, cdc.gov, womanshealthmag.com, globalhandwashing.org, healthpartners.com, rd.com

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is for educational purposes only, and is not intended as medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you are experiencing symptoms or need health advice, please consult a healthcare professional.