Global Handwashing Day 2020
Today, Thursday 15th October is Global Handwashing Day, an annual global event dedicated to promoting handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable ‘do it yourself’ way to prevent diseases and ultimately save lives.
Global Handwashing Day was founded by the Global Handwashing Partnership, and is an opportunity to design, test, and replicate creative ways to encourage people to wash their hands with soap at critical times.
This years’ theme is “Hand Hygiene for All” and is a reminder that the world needs to work towards universal access and the practice of handwashing with soap for all to help prevent gastrointestinal diseases such as diarrohea, respiratory diseases like pneumonia and influenza and other dangerous infections such as Ebola and COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided a stark reminder that one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of a virus is also one of the simplest: hand hygiene. To beat the virus and ensure better health outcomes beyond the pandemic, regular and thorough handwashing with soap must be a priority both now and in the future. However, if soap and water are not available, the use of an alcohol-based sanitiser is a also good alternative measure.
The response to the 2013-16 Ebola crisis is one example in which innovative hand hygiene strategies—including safeguarding hygiene infrastructure, handwashing behaviour change programming, strict enforcement of infection prevention and control practices and compliance among healthcare workers, community hygiene education and resource mobilization, and a concerted strategy between government sectors at all levels and with the global community—were fundamental in the response to contain the public health crisis.
What is the correct way to wash your hands?
Proper handwashing requires soap and running water, to wash properly, follow these steps:
- Wet hands
- Cover wet hands with soap
- Scrub all surfaces including palms, back of the hands, between the fingers and under the fingernails for about 20 seconds (the easiest way to gauge 20 seconds is to use a familiar song that lasts for 20 seconds for example, singing “Happy Birthday”)
- Rinse well with running water
- Dry on a clean cloth or by waving in the air
Is antibacterial soap better than regular soap at stopping the spread of disease?
With proper use, all soaps should be equally effective at removing the germs.
Does water temperature matter when washing hands?
Any water temperature is effective for handwashing with soap. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) guidelines recommend a warm water temperature—particularly in food preparation settings—to maximize the lathering effect of soap to aid the removal of soil and grease containing harmful microbes when handwashing. However, recent research indicates that water temperature does not make a significant difference in removing enteric infection-causing microbes (such as E. coli).
Is it better to dry hands with a towel or clean cloth after handwashing?
Evidence indicates that wiping or drying hands with a towel or a piece of cloth actually can remove germs that were not already eliminated through handwashing.
Can alcohol-based hand sanitizers be used instead of handwashing with soap?
Waterless hand sanitisers containing alcohol or alternative agents, are useful for times where access to soap and water is difficult, for example when you are out and about. However, if hands are visibly soiled, handwashing with soap is best, as sanitisers do not remove dirt. You can learn more about hand sanitiser in our blog, ‘Why is alcohol content so important in hand sanitising gel?’
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