How to Keep Healthy in a Sometimes Unhealthy World: Handwashing
One of the easiest things that we can all do to stay healthy is to wash our hands, but only 67% of people are even remotely careful about handwashing. This is a major issue, since 80% of contagious diseases can be transferred by touch, and touch doesn’t just mean hand-to-hand contact but also refers to touching our own nose, eyes, and mouth.
According to the CDC, handwashing can reduce the occurrence of respiratory illnesses (like the common cold) by 21%, and the incidence of diarrhea by almost 40% – which is the second most common cause of death for children worldwide. In China, they tried distributing soap in primary school and saw the number of illness drop by about 50%, and other research has shown that children who wash their hands regularly while attending public school have over 20% fewer sick days.
In a nutshell, handwashing needs to be a habit in any family that wants to stay healthy. Here are some of the times we need to remember to wash our hands:
- After using the bathroom or changing diapers
- After sneezing, coughing, or blowing your nose
- After coming in contact with garbage
- Before and after tending to someone who is sick
- When preparing food
- After handling pet treats or pet food
- Before eating food (this includes eating in public, too)
There’s a proper way to effectively wash your hands, too. Here’s a summary:
With clean, running water, wet your hands. Running water doesn’t harbor the same microbes and bacteria as a basin of water would. And don’t worry about having to use antibacterial soap: studies have shown that antibacterial soap doesn’t do that much better than regular soap.
Apply soap and lather your hands thoroughly, not forgetting to include the palms and backs of your hands, in between your fingers, and beneath your nails. Scrub your hands for twenty seconds. It’s the scrubbing process that actually removes the most germs. Common sense tells us that the process of lathering and scrubbing helps to remove dirt, grime, and germs better than a quick rinse under the faucet. The twenty second rule is actually based on research that has shown the most effective handwashing results from scrubbing between 15 and 30 seconds.
Finally, rinse your hands thoroughly and clean, running water and then dry your hands on a clean dry or allow them to air dry.
Now, what if you don’t have access to clean, running water? There’s a solution for that problem, too. Try using a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol. This won’t be as effective as using soap and water, of course, but it will significantly reduce the number of germs on your hands.
Handwashing is one of the easiest, most inexpensive things we can do to promote health in our families. By remembering to wash our hands, and taking the time to do it right, we can drastically reduce the illness that our families are exposed to in this unhealthy world.
Mimi Rothschild is a veteran homeschooling mother of 8, writer of a series of books called Cyberspace for Kids, and passionate advocate for children and education that is truly worthy of them. In 2001, Mimi and her late husband founded Learning By Grace, a leading provider of online Christian homeschooling Academies.