With the World Health Organization classifying the COVID-19, novel coronavirus, outbreak as a pandemic, everyone is clamoring for ways to avoid infection.
It is important to promote preparation over panic, and good sanitary practices are a good measure to take in helping you stay healthy.
We all grew up with parents and teachers telling us to wash our hands, but has anyone ever really explained why this is important?
Hand washing is vital because it removes germs, bacteria, viruses like COVID-19, and other foreign objects from your hands.
The act of washing your hands is a mechanical preventative measure. You are actively removing bacteria and viruses from your hands while you wash.
We're all in a hurry these days. Whether we are rushing out the door for work, lunch, appointments, or other engagements, it’s easy to forget simple sanitary practices. It is important to remind yourself, co-workers, and students to maintain proper hand washing regiments. Reminders can be verbal or visual, such as with “Wash Your Hands" signs.
For schools and daycares, hand washing reminders can come in the form of fun games or rewards for kids. Teachers are using stamps to encourage hand washing in the classroom! This is a fun way to avoid panic, but promote health and safety.
Soap and warm water might not kill viruses outright, but, as mentioned above, removing them from your skin means they don't have a host to attach to. Eventually, without access to a body, the germ dies.
The CDC estimates that the coronavirus can survive on a surface, like the skin on your hands, for hours or days, but regular and thorough hand washing reduces the chance of illness.
There is no set number of times to wash your hands.
You should try washing them before eating at the very least. If you start chowing down without washing up first, you're giving any bacteria or virus easy access to your body. Also, anytime you cough or sneeze. It's up to everyone to follow proper hygiene practices.
You can find a lot of ways to wash your hands. The main goal is to cover your hands completely with soap before rinsing.
Short answer: no, wash your hands. Long answer: it depends.
Now, this isn't to say you shouldn't wash your hands. You should be doing that. But, doing it too much or with too much vigor can complicate things.
If you suffer from frequent dry skin, you'll want to avoid scrubbing. A Harvard Medical School article suggests scrubbing too hard can damage your skin. This gives another entry point to your body for bacteria and viruses. Moisturizers and other lotions can help keep your hands intact, but it's still a good idea to not get too into your scrubbing.
Keep the water comfortably warm. We've all heard that hot water is best. And while we use hot water for cleaning and disinfect dishes, it can damage your skin more. Also, you may be less inclined to keep washing if the water threatens to burn your skin every time you rinse.
Time is the key factor.
We've probably all heard it by now, even mentioning it earlier, but 20 seconds is the goal for washing your hands. This doesn't include grabbing the soap and drying. Measure out 20 seconds of continuous lathering.
Everyone has their own method of tracking their time. You can sing Happy Birthday or Row, Row, Row Your Boat twice while you wash. Or, count to 20. Whatever your method, you should aim to meet the minimum time.
20 seconds is a good amount of time to ensure you cover every part of your hands.
There is no simple yes or no answer.
Alcohol-based sanitizers are effective in killing bacteria and some forms of viruses. According to that same Harvard article, even better than soap and water in some cases. But, the quantity and method are important.
You still need to coat the entirety of your hands with your product of choice. And, you'll need to use enough sanitizer to ensure that. Otherwise, it's no better than washing your hands the traditional way.
Furthermore, your hand sanitizer needs to be up to snuff. The CDC recommends using products that are at least 60% alcohol concerning the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Soap and water for 20 seconds is still the best way option, but a strong enough hand sanitizer is a fine substitute if you don't have access to them.
Though there is widespread concern about the Coronavirus, it is important to stay calm. Promote health and sanitation in your home, office, school and community.
Hedge your bets, wash your hands.