Who knew the way you washed your hands could actually determine how much of the risk of being infected with COVID-19 it could lower?
Handwashing is usually a daily routine, one we might have taken for granted. However, with the spread of the coronavirus globally, the significance of this simple act of washing your hands just shot up exponentially. But what many might not realize is whether they're actually doing it correctly or not. According to a 2018 study published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans placed in a test environment failed to properly wash their hands and prevent the spread of germs 97% of the time.
Though the study may have been limited based on the sample size, Dr. Jennifer H. Haythe, internist and cardiologist at New York-Presbiteriyan Hospital, agrees with the result of the study. "Generally, people don't wash their hands long enough, and I'm always emphasizing that people need to choose soap and water," she says. And right now, considering the severity of COVID-19, washing your hands correctly is more important than it has been before.
So here is what the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says is the proper way to perform this task.
Step 1: Wet your hands up to your wrists under running water. The temperature of the water is irrelevant, according to CDC officials as heat does not affect the removal of germs from your hands.
Step 2: After that, turn off the water and apply the soap on your hands. As you lather it up, ensure you clean both the front and back of your hands and wrists. This includes the skin between your fingers and under your nails.
Step 3: Keep scrubbing your hand for at least 20 seconds. If you are doing it with your kids, scrub as you sing "Happy Birthday" twice, says Dr. Haythe. Soap may lift the bacteria off your skin but it's the friction of scrubbing that actually gets the germs to go down the drain.
Step 4: Turn the water back on, put your hands beneath the tap and rinse thoroughly. Ensure that all the soap has been washed away and the water in your basin is clear. Remove any and all traces of soapy water on your skin that may be on your wrists or that have dripped down to other parts of your body, as it could spread germs elsewhere.
Step 5: Finally, dry your hands with a clean towel or a paper towel. If those are not available, use a hand dryer. The CDC states that "Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands; therefore, hands should be dried after washing." So by drying your hands cleanly, you keep germs from not only staying on you but from transferring to your loved ones.
Check out some cute videos of celebrities teaching their little ones the handwashing song with their own twist on it or sharing videos of themselves doing it.
Hugh Jackman dancing while washing his hands has made my day😆♥️ pic.twitter.com/UxAz51UdGZ— Trudy ♡ (@CircusQueen68) March 14, 2020
If you're curious about when to wash your hands, Dr. Haythe says, "It really depends on what you've done that day and the kind of exposure you're facing; as a doctor, I wash my hands 30 to 40 times a day, especially during the flu season," according to Good Housekeeping. And with the coronavirus outbreak, this is especially important. But for basic guidelines, here are some standard times you should wash your hands.
- Before preparing food and after you've finished eating
- After you come inside from the outdoors
- After touching or playing with your pets
- After touching anything that has been widely and commonly used
In this time of such a pandemic, sticking to these rules and guidelines can help keep you and your loved ones protected. Additionally, avoid touching your face with unwashed hands especially after coughing or sneezing and practice social distancing and self-isolation. The CDC also recommends that if soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry. Talk to your kids about what is happening without going into too much detail as knowing how to keep themselves safe can help them want to follow these rules.