By Elisa Sparkman, Education and Outreach Specialist
Since I was a small child, the importance of washing your hands was emphasized. It was part of a routine. After using the restroom and before eating hand washing was almost robotic. There were no questions about it.
If there is one thing that I can say I have learned since I began working for this public health department it is that washing your hands is really as important as they say. Actually I would say that it is even more important than they say! And I will answer the question you are probably thinking, No, I am not germophobic. I finally understand and appreciate how much hand washing does for us.
The fact that washing your hands well can reduce the spread of disease is probably not new to you. Bacteria gets on our hands easily from touching everyday items like hand rails, gas pumps, crosswalk buttons, toys, raw unwashed food, and our pets.
Did you know that frequent and thorough hand washing can also reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals? Toxic chemicals and metals from pollution float around in the air and make their way into dirt and into indoor air and dust. Toxic chemicals from agricultural, industrial, and residential pesticide application also make their way into homes as dust. Think about all of the dusty or dirt-covered items you touch each day. There is a good chance that toxic chemicals wind up on your hands and on many items you touch. We touch our faces, our lips, our water bottles, our phones, our computers, our food... you see where I am going with this? Washing your hands is important.
To be sure you are washing your hands well follow these simple rules.
- Rub and scrub with soap for 20 seconds (singing the ABCs or Happy Birthday twice).
- Use warm water.
- Tip hands downward so water rinses the suds and yucky stuff off of your hands.
- If possible, turn the faucet off with a paper towel.
- At home, sanitize faucet handles often.
So when anybody asks me what the one thing is that I've learned since I started working at the health department I say, “Washing your hands is really as important, if not, more important, than they say!”