NORCROSS, Ga. -- In the wake of the many natural disasters that have plagued the U.S. this year, from hurricanes of horrific impact to severe flooding and forest fires, our fellow citizens have been returning to their homes and businesses to deal with clean-up. It is especially important to remember in times such as these that good handwashing techniques are essential. Personal hygiene and measures to prevent the spread of disease have been encouraged by numerous health-oriented organizations, including the CDC.
"Good handwashing techniques are important for everyone, every day," says Carolyn Twomey, RN, director of clinical affairs for Regent Medical. "It seems so simple, yet it is acknowledged by experts in infectious disease as the single most important thing you can do to reduce the spread of infection," she adds.
As a guide, Twomey recommends singing four stanzas of the childhood song "Row, row, row your boat" -- 20 seconds -- that's how long your handwashing should last.
Twomey points out that only 33 percent of the general public washes their hands in public restrooms.(1) "And the single greatest influencer to wash? Whether or not others are washing: individuals feel peer pressure when they exit the lavatory area. And when individuals don't wash, what is the first thing they touch on their way out? The doorknob of the restroom. Even if you wash, what's the first thing you touch on your way out of the door, the doorknob," she adds.
Here are some tips to avoid transmitting or acquiring infections related to hand contamination. This is especially important to those working in areas where communicable diseases are highly suspect and is also important as we move into the primary cold and flu season.
1. Teach yourself and your children to sneeze or cough into the bend of
one's arm and not into one's hand.
2. When using a public restroom:
a. Wash your hands while merrily singing four stanzas of the "Row,
row, row your boat" song.
b. Leave the water running!
c. Grab your paper towel and dry your hands -- but don't toss it yet.
d. Turn off the water at the sink with the paper towel.
e. Open the door with the paper towel and dispose of it outside the
"These techniques help arrest the spread of infection everyday in every
situation. They are key for healthcare workers -- along with wearing gloves and masks in appropriate situations. Healthcare workers get maximum benefit by washing with antiseptic/antimicrobial cleansers with a persistent effect which continue killing microbes long after washing," Twomey concludes.
Reference: (1) Bayer Pharmaceutical Division and Wirthlin Worldwide Research. Handwashing survey: Fact sheet. National Food Safety Database. http://www.foodsafety.org/ht/ht234.html. 1998.
Source: Regent Medical Ltd.