Hand-washing is a crucial aspect of hygiene, and it is an effective preventive measure that may protect people from various infectious diseases. While medical professionals have always given advice regarding the importance of hand-washing, people started being more diligent about personal hygiene in the last couple of years. Because of COVID-19 and the previous lack of vaccines or drugs that would help people prevent or combat the virus, individuals could not effectively protect themselves other than by using preventative measures such as hand-washing.
This has been proven to be a beneficial way of controlling and minimizing the spread of disease from person to person. Seasons that have been described as risky in terms of catching the flu or other infectious diseases are also always accompanied by medical advice that mentions hand-washing as a critical preventative practice. Washing the hands regularly and diligently is essential for removing different bacteria, microorganisms, and viruses from the hands, preventing the spread of diseases, and having an overall healthy general population.
While hand hygiene is a topic that doctors always try to promote and present as an efficient way of preventing multiple diseases, recent years have been particularly favorable in terms of people paying attention to this problem. Due to the fast spread and worldwide COVID-19 crisis, medical experts have been trying to minimize the risks as much as possible. The development of vaccines and understanding the disease better came later on.
The only preventative measures that professionals could suggest were wearing masks and frequently washing hands or wearing medical gloves. According to researchers, as COVID-19 can be transmitted through touching contaminated surfaces, the spread can be minimized with proper hand hygiene (Beiu et al., 2020). This was one of the primary prevention measures suggested by all medical professionals, and it had a positive impact in terms of efforts to decrease the risk of contamination. Even now that vaccines have been implemented on an international level, hand-washing is promoted as a way of reducing the risk of being a carrier of the virus and contributing to the virus being transmitted to individuals who are immuno-compromised or have not been vaccinated yet.
Having adequate hand hygiene has multiple health benefits that can positively affect the general health of the population. The biggest advantage is the fact that washing hands are not only beneficial for the individual that engages in such practices, but for other people as well. This is possible due to the prevention of spreading different viruses and bacteria that can, subsequently, negatively influence others who are going to come in contact with the contaminated surface.
According to Smith et al. (2020), hand hygiene is an effective intervention in relation to multiple diseases related to poor sanitation. Some dangerous diseases that can be avoided and prevented are salmonellosis, hepatitis A, coronavirus, influenza, etc. A study has suggested that hand-washing is an effective measure that diminishes the risks of having certain upper respiratory infections (Liu et al., 2016). This evidence proves that hand-washing is a practice that has vital benefits that can lead to a healthier public environment.
It is essential to mention that proper hand hygiene is a positive measure in many other cases besides stopping the spread of germs from person to person. One example is the benefits in terms of combating antibiotic resistance. It has already been proven that lack of hand hygiene may lead to diseases, and preventing these from happening reduces or diminishes the use of antibiotics throughout a lifetime. Since one uses fewer antibiotics because adequate hand-washing is a routine preventative measure, more severe diseases will be more easily managed due to the risk of antibiotic resistance being minimal. Antibiotics can be life-saving in certain situations, so washing the hands to reduce the use of such potent medications will increase their efficiency in case of a real emergency.
There have been numerous recommendations in relation to efficient hand-washing that medical professionals have suggested to increase the benefits of proper hygiene. Moreover, using hand sanitizers that do not require water is a common practice that helps people fulfill their hygienic goals and reduce the risk of germ transmission in settings where running water is not available. However, researchers point out that using water and soap is a more efficient way of minimizing the spread of viruses and bacteria (Foddai et al., 2016). Soaps that contain a high amount of alcohol tend to be more productive in terms of killing bacteria.
Practicing an adequate hygiene routine concerning diligent hand-washing under running water for a period of at least 30 seconds is the most beneficial prevention of an array of health conditions. It is vital to point out that besides proper technique, hand-washing frequency is just as important as the methodology. Hand hygiene measures are best applied before meals, after using the bathroom, after touching surfaces in public areas, and before touching the face, eyes, mouth, or nose.
Individuals working in medical settings are more likely to wash their hands often due to the ethical and physical aspects of the procedures they perform. Preventing diseases in hospitals and cliques is a vital aspect of combating the spread of viruses. Due to the fact that medical institutions are often visited by a variety of different people who may have a compromised immune system due to diseases, specific procedures, and physical conditions, physicians are well aware of the importance of proper hygiene when handling such patients. Fox et al. (2015) illustrate the high risk of patients in critical situations to visit hospitals because of the potential of being infected with certain viruses. Needless to say, a sterile setting during surgical procedures is even more crucial due to the direct contact and high risk of infections. Doctors and nurses are always diligent about hand-washing, which is the best evidence for such practice being life-saving in multiple situations.
The importance of having a good hand hygiene routine is undebatable. As mentioned before, frequently washing the hands with running water and soap helps reduce the risk of catching diseases, spreading viruses, being resistant to antibiotics, etc. However, there is a downside that multiple individuals are experiencing while diligently taking care of their health. Irritant contact dermatitis is an issue that numerous people have first encountered during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the fact that hand-washing became a practice that people started paying a lot more attention to, dermatitis was a downside that took many individuals by surprise. Prolonged contact with water and the use of alcohol-containing sanitizers and soaps led to a damaged skin barrier that caused burning sensations, redness, inflammation, and dryness.
However, such effects are not substantial reasons to reduce the frequency of hygienic procedures or minimize the use of soap and other agents that successfully kill bacteria. A possible prevention measure is moisturizing the hands more often. Since the skin loses moisture during hand-washing, balancing things out with an emollient hand lotion afterward is the most accessible and helpful method to minimize this downside. Hand hygiene is vital either way and looking for ways to reduce the risk of having an impaired skin barrier is a more adequate solution than not washing the hands whatsoever.
Based on all the data and evidence promoted by every medical expert, hand-washing is an absolutely necessary procedure. It can minimize the risks of catching and spreading germs and viruses, which is a primary concern in terms of the health of the general population. COVID-19 is the main issue at the present moment, which is why adequate hygiene is an even more crucial preventative measure. COVID-19 is not the only disease that can be transmitted by touching surfaces, handshakes, etc. Other conditions include hepatitis A, salmonellosis, and other potentially life-threatening conditions. It is important to use running water and soaps with high content of alcohol since such aspects provide a more beneficial result in terms of killing bacteria.
Doctors and nurses are the leading proponents of washing hands due to the need for a sterile environment in hospitals and the high-risk contact with critical patients who have a compromised immune system that cannot efficiently fight off certain viruses. The only potential downside is the possibility of developing irritant contact dermatitis, which occurs due to loss of moisture and a weak skin barrier. However, such negative implications can be minimized by using hand lotions and creams. Having a proper hand hygiene routine is beneficial for people who want to protect themselves and others, being direct contributors to the health of everyone around them.
Beiu, C., Mihai, M., Popa, L., Cima, L., & Popescu, M. N. (2020). Frequent hand washing for Covid-19 prevention can cause hand dermatitis: Management tips. Cureus. Web.
Foddai, A. C., Grant, I. R., & Dean, M. (2016). Efficacy of instant hand sanitizers against foodborne pathogens compared with hand washing with soap and water in food preparation settings: A systematic review. Journal of Food Protection, 79(6), 1040–1054. Web.
Fox, C., Wavra, T., Drake, D. A., Mulligan, D., Bennett, Y. P., Nelson, C., Kirkwood, P., Jones, L., & Bader, M. K. (2015). Use of a patient hand hygiene protocol to reduce hospital-acquired infections and improve nurses’ hand washing. American Journal of Critical Care, 24(3), 216–224. Web.
Liu, M., Ou, J., Zhang, L., Shen, X., Hong, R., Ma, H., Zhu, B.-P., & Fontaine, R. E. (2016). Protective effect of hand-washing and good hygienic habits against seasonal influenza. Medicine, 95(11). Web.
Smith, L., Butler, L., Tully, M. A., Jacob, L., Barnett, Y., López-Sánchez, G. F., López-Bueno, R., Shin, J. I., McDermott, D., Pfeifer, B. A., Pizzol, D., & Koyanagi, A. (2020). Hand-washing practices among adolescents aged 12–15 years from 80 countries. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(1), 138. Web.