(RxWiki News) Oct. 15 is Global Handwashing Day, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reminding everyone that keeping your hands clean is one of the most important ways to stay healthy.
Properly washing your hands can keep you from getting sick and spreading germs to others. Proper hand hygiene can help reduce the following:
- The number of young children who get sick
- The number of people who get sick with diarrhea by about 23 to 40 percent
- Diarrheal illness in people with HIV by about 58 percent
- Respiratory illnesses like colds in the general population by about 16 to 21 percent
If these whopping numbers don't change your mind, check this out: Proper hand-washing can help prevent serious infections that lead to sepsis. Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection you already have somewhere in your body. Sepsis is life-threatening and can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and even death if action isn't taken in a timely manner.
On Global Handwashing Day and every day, you can take steps to prevent infections and sepsis. These steps include the following:
1) Wash Frequently
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water OR with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It's particularly important to wash your hands at key times, such as after using the bathroom or before preparing and eating food.
Did you know that studies have found that people touch their eyes, nose and mouth 25 times every hour without even knowing it? With that being said, it's easy to understand why experts recommend washing your hands with soap and water frequently — especially before touching your face.
Other important times to wash your hands include the following:
- Before and after changing wound dressings or bandages
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After touching hospital surfaces, such as bed rails
2) Do It Right
Washing your hands often is only part of the puzzle — proper hand-washing is key. When washing your hands with soap and water, take the following steps:
- Wet your hands with warm, running water. Use liquid soap if possible. Apply a nickel- or quarter-sized amount of soap to your hands.
- Rub your hands together until the soap forms a lather, and then scrub the backs of your hands. Make sure to get in between your fingers and the areas around and under the fingernails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands with a clean paper towel if possible. (An electric dryer is also OK).
- Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door.
If you are using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, apply the product to your hands and rub them together for about 20 seconds.
3) Practice Wound Safety
Keep cuts on your hands and anywhere on your body clean and covered until they are healed. This can help prevent infections.
4) Arm Yourself with Knowledge
Know the symptoms of infection and sepsis. If you notice any signs or symptoms of an infection — especially if your infection is not getting better or is getting worse — seek medical care. If you believe you have sepsis, do not delay medical care.
Symptoms of sepsis include confusion, shortness of breath, fast heart rate, fever, pain, and sweaty or clammy skin. Although anyone can get an infection, and infections can lead to sepsis, some people are at higher risk. Some people who face a higher risk of infection and sepsis include the following:
- Adults age 65 or older
- People with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease
- People with a weak immune system
- Children younger than 1
- Those in the hospital
Speak with your health care provider about ways you can prevent infections.