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Always wash your hands is a dictum taught to use since we were small children. We, however, found it very difficult to follow. I bet, just like others, we have one hundred and one reasons to avoid hand washing. These may include excuses like always being in a hurry or just simply being lazy. Below are some information why washing our hands is very important.

Hand washing and germs

Since microscopic germs such as viruses, bacteria, parasites and fungi are ubiquitous or their characteristic of being found anywhere, no one is exempted from getting infectious diseases. We can get them from objects, such as doorknobs and stair railings which were touched by other people who are not good hand washers thus making these objects loaded with germs. Just think about all the things we touch or hold each day and how many other people who may have touched them before us.

How hand washing works

How washing works through the mechanical action of scrubbing. This loosens up the dirt and microbes on our hands which are then picked up and bound by soap. Rinsing with water then washes the dirt and microbes away. By frequently washing our hands, we wash away germs that we have picked up from other people, or from contaminated surfaces, or from animals and animal wastes.

Hand washing and the diseases prevented

Hand washing is a practice that is worth less than a peso is the simplest thing we and our families can do to prevent getting infectious diseases. Take note, diseases that can be prevented by the habit of hand washing can be as simple as colds and flu or as serious as diseases like hepatitis A, meningitis, and infectious diarrhea. Thus, it is clear that by simply washing our hands, we can save a lot from medical bills and avoid other repercussions of being sick.

Below are some important pointers on hand washing:

1. What happens if we do not wash our hands frequently?

We pick up germs from other sources and then we infect ourselves when we touch our eyes, or nose or mouth.

One of the most common ways we catch colds is by rubbing our noses or our eyes after our hands have been contaminated with the cold virus. We can also spread germs directly to others or onto surfaces that other people touch. And before we know it, everybody around us is getting sick.

The Nutritional Guidelines for Filipinos (NGF) developed by the NGF Technical Working Group led by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute - Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST) stages that good personal hygiene such as hand washing is one of the ways to conform with nutritional guidelines number nine, Eat Clean and Safe Food.

2. When should we wash our hands?

We should wash our hands often. Probably more often than we do now, because we cannot see the germs with the naked eye or smell them, so we do not really know where they are hiding.

This simply means having the awareness that the potential sources of contamination are around us and that we should take care to keep our hands clean throughout the day. It is also taking the time to stop, what we are doing to wash our hands when we recognize contamination. It is breaking old habits and developing new ones that help reduce the potential for the spread of harmful microorganisms.

It is especially important to wash our hands:

Before, during, and after we prepare food,
Before we eat, and after we use the bathroom,
After handling animals or animal wastes,
When our hands are dirty, and
More frequently when someone in our home is sick.

3. What is the correct way to wash our hands?

A quick rinse under water is not good enough. Soap, water and friction, done in the appropriate time, is the only way. There should be no shortcuts in the sink.

  • First, wet hands and apply liquid or clean bar soap. Place the bar soap on a rack and allow it to drain.
  • Next, rub hands vigorously together and scrub all surfaces.
  • Continue for 10-15 seconds or about the length of a little tune. It is the soap combined with the scrubbing action that helps dislodge and remove germs.
  • Rinse well and dry hands. It is also important to dry hands thoroughly after washing. Use clean disposable paper towels or cloth, not a repeatedly used one.

It is estimated that one out of three people do not wash his hands after using the restroom. So these tips are also important when we are out in public.

After knowing the importance of hand washing, there is no perfect place to start the habit than in our respective homes with our children. Parents are the best role models, thus children will only be good hand washers if they see their parents doing the good habit of hand washing. Parents should also bear in mind that giving nutritious food and instilling healthy practices in a child will help the child be healthy and well-nourished.

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