A high school sports team is cooling off after a game. One player dries his hands after rinsing them briefly in water and passes another player his towel to dry off some of his sweat. The second player rubs the towel all over his face, including his nose and lips.
What the first player didn’t realize is he had the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus(MRSA) on his hands from rubbing his nose earlier, as it causes only a minor infection in some people.
The second player? He comes down with a staph infection, too. When it hits his bloodstream, he’s hospitalized. Proper hand-washing — rather than that quick rinse — could have saved the second player’s life.
People pursuing online nursing masters programs or any degree in the health care field coverhow to get their hands truly clean and how to keep their skin healthy in their classes. Hand-washing is critical in health care — for example, cholera is still spread in developing countries largely due to a lack of hand-washing and hygiene.
Staph infections are a problem even in the U.S. So take a tip from the experts, and especially if you hope to join the medical field someday, start cleaning your hands the right way.
Run the faucet and wet your entire hands before applying soap. When soap comes in contact with moisture, it is easier to lather and more effective at working into the skin. Cover your entire hands, wrists and forearms thoroughly.
Most people know they have to wash their hands to prevent bacteria and viruses from spreading; however, they simply don’t wash their hands long enough.The Daily Mail reports people only wash their hands for six seconds on average.
The lathering portion of washing your hands should last at least 20 to 30 seconds. Count to 30 in your head as you lather. If encouraging children to wash their hands a full 30 seconds, use a timer you keep near the sink.
Not working the soap into your skin properly is almost as bad as not washing your hands at all. The bacteria and viruses do not die. Instead, they remain on your skin, where you’ll continue to spread them to others. Correct hand-washing removes 95 to 99 percent of germs on your skin. Besides the backs of the hands and the palms, rub soap into:
- The areas between your fingers
- The small exposed areas under your nails
- Your wrists
- Your forearms — particularly if you were exposed to illness or grime
Most commercial bar and liquid soaps do the job effectively, as the Minnesota Department of Health explains. You don’t have to search for “anti-bacterial” soaps, as any soap will kill bacteria if correctlylathered.
However, health professionals who are typically exposed to more bacteria than other people may benefit from anti-bacterial soap — although they must let it lather for two minutes for the full effect. If you have sensitive skin, look for soap without added fragrance or soap with moisturizer.
Preventing Dry Skin
Dry skin is not only painful and irritating, but it causes premature aging, rashes, itching and peeling. Living in cold or low-humidity environments increases your risk of dry skin, but so does frequent hand-washing as you’re stripping skin of necessary moisture. To prevent dry skin, don’t wash your hands too much. Most people can limit hand-washing to a few times a day, particularly:
- Before eating or preparing food
- After using the restroom
- After handling anything dirty (garbage, diapers, chemicals, etc.)
- Before and after coming into contact with someone who is contagiously ill or handling anything they’d touched
- Before putting in eye drops or contacts
Some people, like those in the health care industry, constantly wash their hands throughout the day because they come into contact with people who are ill. If you can’t avoid washing your hands often, keep your hands moisturized.
Every time you wash and dry your hands, apply moisturizer, preferably cream instead of lotion. At night, use heavy-duty moisturizers like petroleum jelly and wear light gloves to trap the moisturizer against your skin.
Take care of your health by taking care of your skin. As the Mayo Clinic states, properly washing your hands is one of the best defenses we have against disease. Yet, only five percent of people wash their hands long enough to kill bacteria, reports The Daily Mail.
Almost half of all food borne illnesses can be blamed on someone—the cook, the eater, the packager— who didn’t properly wash his hands during the preparation and consumption of that food. Change your hand-washing habits to stop the spread of dangerous illnesses today.
About the Author:Will Knight is a contributing writer and registered nurse. He’s worked in the health care field for over 15 years.
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