Ruchi Kaushik, MD, MPH
Assistant Professor, Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine
Medical Director, ComP-CaN (Comprehensive Peds for Complex Needs)
Medical Director, Children’s Hospital of San Antonio Blog
December 3-9 is National Handwashing Awareness Week. You have heard health care professionals talk about hand washing repeatedly. Well, if they haven’t convinced you and your family/friends to lather up this holiday season, I bet these gruesome facts will!
- Approximately four out of five contagious diseases are passed by touching someone (and you just hugged your sister).
- Only one out of five people wash their hands before preparing food (and your mom made the turkey this year).
- Roughly one out of six cell phones have fecal (poop) matter on them (maybe because you just let your toddler nephew borrow yours?).
- Almost two out of five people don’t wash their hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their noses (and you just shook your boss’s hand).
- About seven percent of women and 15 percent of men do not wash their hands at all after using the bathroom. (EWWW! OK, that’s just gross. And I really hope you don’t know anyone who does this.)
Now that you are thoroughly disgusted, let me share the benefits of the simple task of handwashing.
- Handwashing prevents one out of every three children from getting a diarrheal illness and one out of every five children from getting a respiratory illness (colds, flu, pneumonia).
- Handwashing education for children can improve school attendance.
- Preventing illnesses by handwashing results in less frequent use of antibiotics and can improve the likelihood of antibiotic resistance.
I am sure I have you hooked now, so let’s make sure you know the proper handwashing technique! Just follow these five steps from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) every time.
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Try singing the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice to make sure you scrub long enough.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them. Wet hands can transfer germs more often than dry hands.
When should you wash your hands?
- Before, during, and after preparing food and before eating food.
- When caring for someone who is sick.
- When treating a cut or wound.
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- After using the toilet.
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet.
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste.
- After touching garbage.
So lather up, rinse, and repeat as often as necessary! Stay healthy this season. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov.
If your child is ever a patient at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, we encourage you to ask your nurses, doctors and other caregivers if they have washed their hands when they enter your room.