“Wash Your Hands” isn’t just good advice for kids or restaurant employees: it’s a smart idea for anyone who wants to prevent infection. Which, according to Accredited Home Care, should really be everyone!
Regular cleaning of one’s hands throughout the day seems to make just about every ‘how to’ list for recommended hygiene habits. There’s good reason for it – hand washing is a smart and easy way to not only remove or reduce buildup of dirt, bacteria and contaminants from your skin, but significantly reduces risks of making yourself sick if any of them happen to make it into your body or bloodstream.
Scrubbing up should be done anytime your hands could be contaminated, including going to the bathroom, preparing food, eating, or touching an animal. Dirty hands can easily spread germs further via touching the mouth or eyes.
The regular activity of washing also cuts down on the possibility of making someone else sick who you may come into contact with, either via direct transfer through actions such as shaking hands, or even touching the same surfaces.
So when we’re talking about germs, are we talking about a few specks of dirt that could potentially make you sick if you happen to accidentally eat them? Not quite.
Though bacteria are present all over our bodies, a University of Colorado study determined that there are more than 332,000 genetically distinct bacteria from 4,742 species on our hands. Interestingly, while our mouths may have more bacteria total, as many as 6 billion, they are only from about 200 species.
Good oral health practices can certainly keep this number managed, such as regular brushing, flossing and check-ups.
But as far as dirty hands, the Centers for Diseases Control says that even 20 seconds of washing with soap and water can work wonders in fighting infection. If these combos aren’t available, a hand sanatizer with 60 percent alcohol can help.
Bel-Air residents interested in better hand hygiene are encouraged to take part in Global Handwashing Day on Oct. 15, an international effort that provides resources to encourage all of us to practice better hygiene habits. With the 2017 theme “Our Hands, Our Future,” the day presents plenty of evidence why it’s a good idea for everyone to wash better, including reducing the total amount of sick days for workers or students so productivity will improve.
Though hand washing is believed to be vital in preventing in-person infections or spreading infections to others, there are other common methods as well. Knowing these are especially useful for home health care situations, where a client’s immune system may be weaker so they would be more susceptible to infection or an infection turning into something more serious. Caregivers, friends or family members also need to be aware of their own health before paying a visit to someone homebound.
Some of the other methods Bel-Air area residents can use to prevent infection include:
- Wash and bandage all cuts. Even if you think an injury is tiny and not worth doing anything about, it could still collect dirt or contaminants and become infected. Sterile adhesive bandages can protect wounds well from further trauma but also need to be replaced regularly.
- Don’t share anything. This advice includes forks, knives, spoons, tissues, glasses, dishes, toothbrushes or other items which could all contain bacteria from someone else, especially someone who might be infectious.
- Clean up messes. When you’re sick or don’t get around much, it’s easy to assemble scattered piles of Kleenex or infected items on the table or the bed stand instead of always putting them in the garbage. If someone comes into contact with these soiled items, such as cleaning, they could potentially become sick.
- Prepare and store food safely. Counters and supplies should be clean and sanitary. Meats require heating them at or beyond certain safe temperatures before serving. Leftovers shouldn’t be left at room temperature for long. Instead, they should be refrigerated at least 40 degrees for a week, and then either frozen or disposed of. Undercooked meat or expired food could cause physical problems.
- Plan ahead when sick. If you’re in poor health with an infection, take steps to minimize exposing others or for you catching something else. This can include wearing a face mask or gloves, or simply not going out.
The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology are eager for more people to learn about infections and steps to take to avoid them. It has designated Oct. 16-22 as International Infection Prevention Week, and encourages people in the health care fields and patient communities to be more aware of infection prevention methods and resources.
Home health care organizations like Accredited Home Care are also happy to answer questions about infection protocol, including what takes place when a client wants to avoid infection, or if a staff member may have some illness.