Washing up for National Handwashing Awareness Week

Handwashing Awareness Week

By Carolina Boyd, Communications Associate

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been washing our hands more than ever.  This time of year is another reminder of why it is so important to wash up. That’s because Dec. 1-7, 2021 has been designated National Handwashing Awareness Week.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), handwashing is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs as well as stop respiratory and diarrheal infections.  Germs can spread when you:

  • Touch your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Prepare or consume food and drinks with unwashed hands.
  • Touch contaminated surfaces or objects.
  • Blow your nose, cough or sneeze into your hands then touch other people’s hands or belongings.

Handwashing has always been an important step to good health. Famed nurse Florence Nightingale, implemented hand washing and other hygiene practices inside British army hospitals during the Crimean War (1853-1856).  Handwashing is just as crucial now as the world continues to battle the COVID-19 virus.

It’s recommended that when you wash your hands use soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds. Work up a good lather and clean the back of the hands, between the fingers and under the nails.  Dry your hands using a clean towel. When soap and running water are not available, a hand sanitizer, with at least 60 percent of alcohol, can also help to reduce illness and the spread of germs.

Another forgotten benefit of handwashing is that it helps combat the rise in antibiotic resistance. Handwashing prevents an estimated 30 percent of diarrhea related illnesses and around 20 percent of respiratory infections. Since antibiotics are frequently prescribed for these health issues, washing your hands can help reduce the overuse of antibiotics.

It’s easy to become lax about hand washing. But taking the time to stop and wash your hands frequently throughout the day, can help protect yourself and others this time of year. To learn more visit the CDC webpage on handwashing.