Column: Global Handwashing Day means a lot more in 2020

Shaking hands. Lending a hand. Holding hands. Our hands are just right for all kinds of wholesome activities. Unfortunately, they’re also very good at spreading germs.

That’s why proper handwashing is so important, especially with diseases like COVID-19 around.

“One of the best ways to protect yourself from germs that could make you sick is also one of the easiest things to do,” said Ashley O’Keefe, infection preventionist with Aspirus Riverview Hospital & Clinics. “Reminding everyone to wash their hands often while at home and work is important but it’s especially important during COVID-19.”

In addition to other preventive measures—like avoiding contact with people who are sick, disinfecting surfaces, and not touching your face—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people wash their hands often to help stop the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

Washing your hands the right way involves more than a small dab of soap and a quick rinse under the faucet.

Here’s how to do it right:

  • Get your hands wet and soapy. Use clean, running water, either cold or warm.
  • Rub hands together and scrub every surface. Don’t forget the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Continue rubbing for at least 20 seconds and then rinse with running water.
  • Dry off with a clean towel or, if none is available, just let your hands air dry.

Practice proper handwashing often. It’s particularly important to wash before and after handling food and before and after caring for someone who is sick or injured.

Also, wash up after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; using the toilet or changing a diaper; handling an animal, pet food, or animal waste; or touching garbage.

If there’s no soap and water, it’s OK to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Be sure it contains at least 60 percent alcohol.

Sanitizers have limitations though. They won’t kill all the germs, and they may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty. So, when you have the option, choose soap and water.

The most effective way to avoid being infected by germs is to wash your hands. It’s simple, quick, and cheap.

Ashley O’Keefe is an infection preventionist with Aspirus Riverview Hospital & Clinics.