Founded by the Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing, Global Handwashing Day is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an easy, effective, and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.
Global Handwashing Day is designed to:
- Foster and support a global and local culture of handwashing with soap
- Shine a spotlight on the state of handwashing around the world
- Raise awareness about the benefits of handwashing with soap
Why is washing your hands so important?
From a young age, we were all taught that it is important to wash our hands. But why is it so important? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, handwashing with soap removes germs from hands. This helps prevent infections because:
- People frequently touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even realizing it. Germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose and mouth and make us sick.
- Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks while people prepare or consume them. Germs can multiply in some types of foods or drinks, under certain conditions, and make people sick.
- Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to other objects, like handrails, table tops, or toys, and then transferred to another person’s hands.
- Removing germs through handwashing therefore helps prevent diarrhea and respiratory infections and may even help prevent skin and eye infections.
Research shows that handwashing with soap could prevent many of the 272 million yearly school days lost to illness associated with dirty germs, and 50% of the infections acquired in healthcare settings. Teaching people about handwashing helps them and their communities stay healthy. In fact, handwashing education in the community:
- Reduces the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31%
- Reduces diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58%
- Reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21%
So, when should you wash your hands?
- Before you start work
- After using the restroom
- Before and after handling raw meat, fish, or poultry
- After touching your hair, face, or body
- After sneezing, coughing, or using a tissue
- After smoking, eating, drinking, or chewing gum or tobacco
- After handling chemicals that might affect the safety of the food
- After taking out garbage
- After clearing tables or bussing dirty dishes
- After touching clothing or aprons
- After touching anything else that may contaminate hands such as unsanitary equipment, work surfaces or washcloths
Here’s the right way to wash your hands: (at least this is what science says)
- Sing 'Happy Birthday'. The song takes about 20 seconds, which is the amount of time people should wash their hands.
- Lather with soap. Water alone won't remove enough germs, but you don't need antibacterial soap, which does little or nothing to make the soap work better, according to the FDA.
- Dry with a paper towel. In a previous study, researchers examined the difference between using a paper towel or airing drying hands. It turns out evaporating the water from your hand doesn’t do much for cleanliness, while paper towels sloth off extra germs.
- Use hot water. The optimal temperature to wash out hands is at least 100° F/38° C or as hot as you can comfortably stand.
- Moisturize. People who frequently wash or do so with hot water might experience cracked and broken skin, which harbors bacteria. This dry skin also makes it harder for people to remove bacteria, so it is recommended people use lotion. An added benefit? It can actually reduce the amount of bacteria that hangs on the skin.