Break the Chain
By Mandy M. Sturges, RN, LSN
Licensed School Nurse, Health Services Coordinator,
Hutchinson Public & Parochial Schools
It is time to break the chain; the chain of germ transmission. How do we do that? By washing our hands. Last week, on October 15th there was a worldwide initiative to get people thinking about washing their hands. The Global Handwashing Day was originally designed for children and schools, but is a good reminder for all of us. Handwashing is the single most important thing we can do to remove germs and help us stay healthy. It is a simple thing really, but it can make such a difference.
When you ask people if they wash their hands when they are supposed to, almost all of them say yes. However, studies show that 1 in 5 people do not wash their hands. In fact, in a recent study, 100,000 people were observed to see if they actually washed their hands after using the bathroom. The results were surprising. Only 38% of men washed their hands after using the bathroom. Women did a little better, at 60%. This is after using the bathroom! If we aren’t washing are hands after using the bathroom, we are probably not washing our hands at other key times either.
When should we wash our hands? There are some key times to wash our hands. Here are some examples:
- After using the bathroom
- Before eating or preparing food
- After coughing, sneezing or blowing our nose
- After touching animals
- Whenever our hands are visibly dirty
How should we wash our hands? There are five simple steps to effectively wash our hands (wet, lather, scrub, rinse, dry). Whenever possible, we should wash with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, rinse hands with clean water, and dry with a clean towel. When we talk to children about washing their hands, we often encourage them to sing a song, or say the alphabet. This helps them fill the 20 second time period. If running water and soap are not available, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol content is a good option. These alcohol-based hand sanitizers can reduce the amount of germs, however, they do not remove all germs.
“Clean Hands Save Lives” is a catchy slogan you will find on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website. In fact, the experts claim that handwashing is like a “do it yourself” vaccine. It really is that important. Good handwashing can significantly reduce the spread of germs that cause diarrheal illnesses, as well as respiratory illnesses. This is timely information, as we are about to enter the dreaded “cold and flu season”.
We have the power to break the chain of germ transmission, and significantly reduce the spread of illness. We can do this together. We can wash our hands! I truly believe we can make a difference in the health of our families, in the health of our schools, and in the health of our community, with this one simple act. The power is literally in the palm of our hands!