How To Clean Your Hands and Prevent The Spread of Disease
We’ve all been told from a young age how important it is to wash your hands. Scrubbing your hands with soap and water can prevent illness, can prevent the spread of germs, and can keep you feeling clean. But what do you do if you don’t have access to a sink with soap and water?
Which is Better- Hand Sanitizer or Soap and Water?
Here’s the scenario: you’re taking your dog for a walk at the park, about 30 minutes from your home. Your dog has just gone to the bathroom, so you pick up after him with a doggie bag. You throw the waste in the trash, but you have heard that disease can be spread through your dog’s feces. You want to clean your hands, so what should you do? Here’s the answer: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that washing your hands with soap and water is the best prevention method, especially after using the restroom or handling feces. However, hand sanitizers are a good additional tool for disease prevention and personal hygiene.
Hand sanitizers are a great alternative if you can’t wash your hands with soap and water. If you’re on a walk with your dog, you most likely will not have access to a sink. Bring a small hand sanitizer with you wherever you go- you can purchase leash clip-on or travel-sized sanitizers that fit in a small purse or bag. To be effective, choose an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers have been proven to kill viruses and bacteria. Some cheaper brands do not have 60 percent alcohol and are therefore not effective as a hand cleaner. You might as well not use anything at all!
The CDC also says that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are considered an acceptable alternative to soap and water in hospital and doctor’s offices. They have a form of alcohol, such as ethyl alcohol as an active ingredient, which works as an antiseptic. Alcohol can kill bacteria and viruses but it does not necessarily clean your hands. It cannot remove dirt or organic material like blood or feces, so you should always use soap and water first if possible.
When using hand sanitizer, apply a dime-sized amount to your palm. Rub your hands together, covering all surfaces of both hands and in-between your fingers. Rub your hands for about 30 seconds to allow your hands to completely absorb the product. Let your hands air dry before touching food or anything else. If you are on a walk with your dog and the scenario above happens, use hand sanitizer as directed, and then wash your hands again once you return home. As a caution, small children may try to drink or lick hand sanitizer. Monitor your children if they use sanitizer and make sure the bottles are out of reach of small children.
Soap and water
Washing your hands is the best way to prevent the spread of disease. If you pick up after your dog in the backyard or scoop your cat’s litter box at home, wash your hands with soap and water immediately afterward to prevent the spread of illness. It is best practice to wet your hands with clean running water, turn off the tap, and apply antimicrobial soap. Rub the soap between your palms, on the back of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Rinse your hands well and dry with a clean towel or air dry.
Hand soap is made to remove germs and bacteria, not to kill it. When you wash your hands with soap, germs and organic matter such as feces that are trapped in the natural oils of the skin are lifted out and washed away in the water. When you wash your hands, the technique is very important. Most people do not wash their hands long enough. It is recommended that you scrub your hands for a full 20 seconds- try singing the ABC’s and scrubbing until the song is over!
Whether or not you have access to a sink with soap and water, make sure you use a method to clean your hands regardless. If possible, always wash your hands first, and then follow up with hand sanitizer. If you are out and about without access, use hand sanitizer by itself. You can protect yourself and others from harmful disease and parasitic worms simply by cleaning your hands!