Hand washing is among the simplest, yet most vital, aspects of containing germs. It is a vital part of everyday life, yet it has only been a common practice at hospitals and doctors’ offices for little more than 150 years.
Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis first advocated for hand washing in the 1840s, as a way to prevent transmitting illness to pregnant women during childbirth. It is hard to believe that before then, doctors did not always wash their hands, but thankfully, modern medicine has helped reinforce the importance of washing your hands whether you are a doctor or not.
Hand Washing Awareness Week begins December 4, and that observance serves as a reminder for just how important a task that takes only 20 seconds can be. In fact, the Centers of Disease Control has anointed it as “the single most important means of preventing the spread of infection.”
Yet, even with that stern warning, not everyone is doing it. A recent report stated that 15 percent of Americans do not regularly wash their hands, although that rate fluctuated depending on whether they were at home or at an event. Healthcare professionals at the VNA understand the importance of hand washing, and always keep our patients in a sanitized setting. But we can’t do it alone. Caregivers must also remember the importance of hand washing, and should remember basic hygiene rules such as:
- Wash your hands before eating, when preparing food, and whenever they are dirty
- Do not cough or sneeze into your hand
- Keep fingers out of your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Use your towel to turn off the faucet.
Those practices are especially important during flu season, as germs can spread quickly. Those with weakened immune systems are at a greater risk, and those caring for them must take extra diligence in keeping their hands clean. If they don’t, serious consequences could arise. Hepatitis A, MRSA and other health conditions can be spread through lack of hand washing.
Hand washing has been a vital part of keeping people healthy for decades, but we can still do better. Everyone should take a little extra time washing hands – experts even suggest singing “Happy Birthday” to yourself as you do it to ensure a thorough job. That extra effort can help your loved one recuperate faster, and keep you healthier too.
Until next time,