Today is Global Handwashing Day; This year it is more important than ever

By Rahul Vaimal, Associate Editor
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It has never been more important to observe Global Handwashing Day than during a pandemic that could be controlled to some extent by everyone taking hand hygiene seriously.

Global Handwashing Day is an annual global advocacy day set up by the Global Handwashing Partnership to encourage hand washing using soap as a simple, reliable and inexpensive way to prevent infections and save lives. Based on a recent World Health Organization (WHO) initiative calling for better hand hygiene, “Hand Hygiene for All” is the theme of this year’s Global Handwashing Day.

One of the most effective activities we should follow to avoid contracting COVID-19 and spreading the coronavirus that causes the disease to others is to keep our hands clean. Not maintaining hand hygiene and killing off those coronavirus and other viruses, bacteria and germs that we pick up will lead to its spreading between people and cause diseases.

The COVID-19 pandemic provides an important reminder that handwashing with soap and water is one of the simplest, most effective ways to stop the spread of germs and stay healthy. Many germs that can make people sick are spread when we don’t wash our hands with soap and clean, running water.

Handwashing with soap and water can prevent 1 in 3 people from getting sick with diarrhea and 1 in 5 people from getting a respiratory illness. That is why handwashing is so important, especially at key times such as after using the bathroom, when preparing food, before eating and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.

During the pandemic, of course, people are more focused on handwashing. A July poll showed that 88 percent of people said they washed their hands more frequently.
Face-mask wearers wash their hands more frequently than non-mask wearers and this may be because one precautionary action reminds the wearer of the need for other similar behaviors to be followed.

Why don’t some of us wash hands?

The reasons that affect the behavior of handwashing are likely to be ‘optimistic bias’ that refers to the thinking process that diseases will not happen to them or underestimating the seriousness of the risk, claim health psychologists.

Some argue that we humans are prone to physiological disgust reactions, that is, we are motivated to clean ourselves from the disgusting situation or remove the disgusting agent when there is really horrible looking grime and filth. But with COVID-19, the virus is invisible and eliminates the need to urge it off, although everyone knows that COVID-19 somewhere out there.

Feeling that the benefits are not worth the effort and people thinking that they might not be harmed by such small germs may be other possible reasons.

Moreover, being in a rush with work responsibilities can make us forgetful and the handwashing signs that serve as reminders, such as signs are not always present.

Take care of your hands

Our hands can feel like sandpaper due to washing it regularly with soap and rubbing in hand sanitizer. Some individuals have opted out of handwashing or doing it as much as they should, for this reason. And with the approaching winter most of us are worried about this dryness even more.

“Alcohol, the primary ingredient in hand sanitizer, is ‘one of the skin’s most common irritating ingredients. Dry cracked skin impairs the protective barrier of the skin (and) makes it easier for bacteria and other germs to get inside the body. After handwashing, applying moisturizer helps heal dry skin, strengthening the skin barrier,” experts say.

Dermatologists recommend that after washing your hands, pat them dry with a clean towel but leave them slightly damp so that the ointments or creams that you apply after can be absorbed better.

Moisturizers that contain mineral oil or petrolatum are recommended as they are ‘exceptional ingredients’ for moisturizing dry skin.

As tubes reduce air exposure and are thus more effective, ointments and creams in tubes are better than those in bottles. For the skin, items free of fragrance and dye are less irritating. And if you wear lotion be sure to apply ointments and creams over the lotion, as lotions are least moisturizing.

Apply petrolatum jelly before bed for an added moisture boost, wear white cotton gloves at night to leave the cream on and use a humidifier as heating helps dry skin.

So, take care to keep the germs and virus at bay and protect your hands while doing so. Most importantly, don’t leave the tap running while soaping your hands and be extra careful while using water because we don’t want to invite another crisis while dealing with one.