ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. – According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, proper handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from getting sick.
For National Handwashing Awareness Week, celebrated Dec. 5-11, Jouelle Lamaute, an Army Public Health Nurse at the Army Public Health Center wants to refresh your knowledge of this important public health practice.
Washing hands properly and regularly is an important way to help reduce your exposure to bacteria and virus that can cause diseases like COVID, the flu, and even the common cold, says Lamaute.
The APHC’s routine monitoring of Army medical facilities indicates infectious diseases such as these continue to occur among members of the Army family, especially among children.
The CDC emphasizes that the benefits of handwashing can be maximized by washing frequently and scrubbing with soap; especially during these key times:
- Before and after preparing food, and eating
- Before and after caring for sick persons
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the bathroom
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
- After touching garbage
The CDC recommends scrubbing hands with soap for 20 seconds. To help achieve 20 seconds of hand scrubbing, the CDC suggests singing a song.
To get in the practice of handwashing for a long enough period of time, sing a song aloud, silently in your head or hum a tune. Time yourself to see what song can get you to 20 seconds. For example "Happy Birthday" may need to be sung twice, while singing “ABCs” may provide plenty of time for proper handwashing.
The acronym WASH can provide a reminder on the steps and technique to wash hands correctly -
1. Wet hands with clean, running warm or cold water, turn off the tap,
2. Apply soap and lather.
3. Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds, include the back of hands, between fingers, and under nails.
4. H2O rinse under clean, running water and then dry hands using a clean towel or air dryer.
“While handwashing with soap and water is an effective method to reduce the spread of germs, if soap and water are not readily available alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used as well,” says Lamaute.
The CDC recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60 percent alcohol. When using hand sanitizer, apply the gel to the palm of one hand, and rub the gel over your hands and fingers for 20 seconds until dry.
Remember, hand sanitizers are useful in many situations, but they do not get rid of all types of germs, are not as effective on visibly dirty or greasy hands, and might not remove harmful chemical and heavy metals, says Lamaute.
The Army Public Health Center focuses on promoting healthy people, communities, animals and workplaces through the prevention of disease, injury and disability of Soldiers, military retirees, their families, veterans, Army civilian employees, and animals through population-based monitoring, investigations, and technical consultations.