JIS News

Think about all the things that persons do with their hands: write, offer handshakes, nibble on their nails when nervous or hungry, pick their nose, open doors of cars, offices, shops and bathrooms, hold the rail in the bus. the list is endless. But how often do persons wash these hard working appendages attached to their upper limbs, daily? For the average person, this may be twice or in the worst case scenario, none at all, even, dare we say it, after using the toilet.
Many people are unaware that the power of the simple act of hand washing can prove very effective against the spread of some illnesses.
Acting Director of Disease Prevention and Control in the Ministry of Health and Environment, Dr. Sonya Copeland says the practice of correct hand washing is a cost effective disease prevention measure that everyone should utilize.
“The aim of washing your hands frequently is to remove a lot of microbes, common bacteria and viruses. Washing hands will help to break transmission from one infected person to another and from caregiver to the person being cared for,” she tells JIS News.
However, there is a correct way to wash your hands to ensure that as many microbes as possible are removed in the process.
“Proper hand washing of course is putting your hands under running water and soaking them well. Allow the water to run over your hands for a few minutes and hold them upright so that the water can drip towards the elbow. There are many soaps on the market that are antibacterial but just using regular soaps should be sufficient,” Dr. Copeland advises.
This simple act proves even more effective during the cooler times of the year, such as now, because some respiratory infections such as influenza may take hold.
“At this time of the year when we have a lot of rotavirus and rhinovirus, we want to remind persons that they need to pay close attention to frequent hand washing. Before you prepare or eat food, you’re to wash your hand, also before looking after a sick person or baby or touching your eyes or mouth, you need to wash your hands,” she implores.
It is equally important to wash your hands after carrying out certain activities such as after using the toilet; handling raw meat; changing a baby; sneezing, coughing, blowing or wiping your nose.
In situations where water may not be readily available there are other options available that can keep your hands clean. Dr. Copeland points out that there are hand sanitizers, which have become both a popular and acceptable alternative to keeping hands clean. “These sanitizers are in a gel form and they have strong antimicrobial action. Some of them claim to cover a wide spectrum of drugs with efficacy of over 90 per cent,” she says.
If soap is not available, washing with water only, is a temporary measure that can work as well. “If somebody has no soap at all and they only have running water, it will be effective but not as effective as using soap or antibacterial soap,” she reminds.
When washing your hands with water and soap, you should ensure that the water being used is clean. If not clean, you can purify it with bleach or boil it before using to wash.