Do you know how to wash your hands? You may find this question quite embarrassing but researches have confirmed that most people, even adults world-wide, do not wash their hands the right way.
That lacking has left many with germ-filled hands, hence, coming down with preventable diseases such as diarrhoea, and other much severe infections.
Research results indicate that every year, more than 3.5 million children die before their fifth birthday because of diarrhoea. In fact, one child dies every 15 seconds from diarrhoea related disease, which, though preventable through a simple act of hand washing, remains the second most common cause of death in children under five in the world.
The 2008 National Demographic Health Survey, NDHS, however, revealed that only one out of every 10 children washed their hands properly with soap and water, while only 10 per cent of Nigeria’s population knows how to wash their hands properly.
Ironically, even adults are worse off.
Researchers have found a quarter of women worldwide and half of the men to be ignorant about the proper way to wash their hands.
According to a report by the Food and Drink Federation, London, not less than 5.5million adults are estimated to be at risk of suffering from food poisoning each year as a result of not washing their hands properly.
Though medical experts say the simple act of hand washing is an important aspect of life, it is often taken for granted. According to the World Health Organisation, WHO, hand washing could be an important factor towards the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals, MDGs, by many nations as it could prevent pneumonia and nutrition related diseases, as well as help in managing diarrhea and HIV/AIDS.
Dr. Efunbo Dosekun, Consultant Pediatrician/Medical Director, Outreach Children’s Hospital, Festac, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, stated if adopted as a family habit, hand washing was an easy and one of the cheapest ways to prevent infections caused by bacteria, viruses and germs.
“The fact is that our hands are the most exposed part of the body where germs are concerned. For instance, a simple ailment like conjunctivitis can be passed like flu to everyone who lives close to an infected person by a shake of the hand, especially dirty hands. So, when people become health conscious and start thinking about the extent to which our hands and our health go together, they would start washing their hands properly in order to reduce stomach ailments, oral infections and dramatically lower the cases of colds, coughs and other person to person viruses and bacteria,” she said.
She said Nigerians have to be taught how to wash their hands as many do not know how to.
“There are five steps in hand-washing. They won’t know it automatically so they have to be taught how to do it. Once they are trained how to do it and there is available soap and water, there should be no problem. And the water must be running water. People must not put their hands in one bucket; it has to be running water. For those without running water, there is now this special bucket that has a tap at the bottom; it could be used in areas where there is no running water. It is very important as it is such a basic human need for there to be water all the time” she stated.
She said during activities, we must always wash our hands particularly when we wake up first thing in the morning and after alighting from a vehicle because the hands may have been contaminated.
Mrs. Dosekun further noted that as soon as kids come to school, they need to wash their hands; they need to any time they use the toilet with soap and water and dry their hands; before they go home, they must wash their hands.
“It must be a part of a routine, a drill in schools. And the teachers must enforce this drill. They must make sure every kid wash their hands before meal. After some time, it would become a way of life,” she said.
According to her, washing hands with soap the proper way may have as much as 40 per cent reduction in Acute Respiratory Infections, ARI, especially amongst children.
Unfortunately, the lack of running water in most homes in Nigeria have however been identified as a major cause of the prevailing snag in good hand washing practice in the country.
Mrs. Dosekun advises, “If clean, running water is not accessible, as is common in many parts of the country, use soap and available water. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol to clean your hands. Alcohol-based hand sanitisers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations, but they do not eliminate all types of germs and are not effective when hands are visibly dirty.”
How to wash hands properly:
To wash hands properly the right way, Centre for Disease Control, CDC, advises you:
• Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
• Rub your hands together to make lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, wrists, between your fingers, and under your nails.
• Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. If without a timer, it advises you hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
• Rinse your hands well under running water.
• Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
After washing your hands properly, the CDC advises you use a fresh cloth or paper towel to dry your hands completely. Then use the towel as a buffer between your clean hand and the tap to turn off the water.