The CDC defines hand hygiene as cleaning your hands by using either handwashing (soap and water), antiseptic hand wash, antiseptic hand rub (alcohol-based hand sanitizer), or surgical hand antisepsis. Good hand hygiene is important to prevent infections and sicknesses. Handwashing has become especially significant with the entry of the COVID-19 virus. National Handwashing Awareness Week is observed each year during the first week of December, 1st to 7th. This week, sponsored by Henry the Hand Foundation, reminds everyone to be vigilant about hand-washing. As a physician billing company serving providers for many years, we also recommend healthcare practices to consider cleanliness and hygiene seriously, and take necessary steps to make their patients and the community overall to understand the relevance of washing the hands and keeping them clean.

One should be aware of hand safety during this holiday season, which is also the cold and flu season. Proper handwashing techniques can help avoid many diseases ranging from respiratory infections to foodborne illnesses.

Washing your hands helps

  • prevent illnesses and the spread of infections to others
  • remove germs from hands
  • prevent diarrhea and respiratory infections
  • prevent skin and eye infections

Germs can spread from other people or surfaces when your touch your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, while consuming food and drinks with unwashed hands, or when touching a contaminated surface or object. When germs that get onto the hands are not washed off, they can be passed from person to person and make people sick.

Proper handwashing involves the following key steps

  1. Wet the hands with clean, running water, turn off the tap, and apply soap.
  2. Lather the hands by rubbing them together with soap. Also, foam the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  4. Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

If you can’t use soap and water, consider using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. To prevent COVID-19 spread, CDC recommends washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds especially-

  • Before eating or preparing food
  • Before touching your face
  • After using the restroom
  • After leaving a public place
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After handling your mask
  • After changing a diaper
  • After caring for someone who is sick
  • After touching animals or pets

Also, make sure to clean your hands before and after touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; after touching your mask; when entering and leaving a public place; and after touching an item or surface that may be frequently touched by other people.

For healthcare practices, CDC recommends using alcohol-based hand rub (ABHR) with 60-95% alcohol. Healthcare providers are advised to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers or wash their hands with soap and water – immediately before touching a patient, before performing an aseptic task or handling invasive medical devices, after touching a patient or the patient’s immediate environment, after caring for a person with known or suspected infectious diarrhea.

Wash your hands! Stay safe from illnesses!