As we get back into the world and the germs that inhabit it, we shouldn’t drop the hand-washing habits so many us adopted in the Covid era.
It’s one of the best ways to prevent Covid-19 — and you’re probably doing it wrong.
For all the uncertainty that characterizes the global Covid-19 pandemic, the most common directions for protecting ourselves from catching and spreading it have remained the same from the beginning: Avoid unnecessary contact with others, and wash your hands often with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
But often, following these simple directives is simply not an option for the 780 million people around the world who don’t have access to an “improved water source.”
It’s one of the best ways to avoid infection from the new coronavirus, but most people aren’t very good at it. Here’s expert guidance on how to do it right.
To wash your hands effectively, it needs to be done with clean water and soap. Hands should be rubbed together for at least 20 seconds, followed by rinsing. The use of soap is particularly important for handwashing to be effective as research has shown that washing with soap significantly reduces the presence of microbes (viruses and bacteria) on hands. But one often overlooked part of handwashing is hand drying – which is also integral to effective hand hygiene.
Hygiene is not theatre, it’s one component of infectious disease prevention and control, and a component people have control over. And, despite the takeover by COVID in all our communications, other infectious diseases still circulate and cause infection.
From the moment coronavirus reached UK shores, public health advice stressed the importance of washing hands and deep-cleaning surfaces to reduce the risk of becoming infected.
The advice was informed by mountains of research into the transmission of other respiratory viruses: it was the best scientists could do with such a new pathogen.
But as the pandemic spread and data rolled in, some scientists began to question whether the focus on hand hygiene was as crucial as it seemed
The guidelines are everywhere: You should be washing your hands regularly to help stop the spread of infectious diseases, including COVID-19. But does the temperature of the water matter? What's the right way to dry your hands? Why is washing your hands better than using hand sanitizer?
You’re not just washing viruses down the drain. Soap destroys the coronavirus, a chemistry professor explains.
While U.S. hospitals are required to have programs in place to improve hand hygiene, there’s no actual hand hygiene goal. As one expert acknowledged, “In theory, a hospital could report a hand hygiene performance rate of 20%, improve it by 1% a year, and maintain compliance.”
In the early days of the pandemic, public health experts emphasised handwashing as a way to prevent infection and the government launched a “Hands, Face, Space” campaign to encourage people to wash their hands, wear masks and keep 2 metres apart. Subsequent research has shown the biggest risk of Covid-19 transmission is through particles in the air.
And pretty much any other contagious disease.
With cases on the rise once again, revisiting hand washing and other practices is a necessity.