It is said that the human body is a machine, and like all machines, it must be kept clean to function properly. For the human body, this means keeping our hands clean. Studies have shown that hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infection.
But despite this knowledge, many people still do not practice proper hand hygiene. One reason for this may be that people do not understand just how important hand hygiene is. Another reason may be that people do not know how to properly wash their hands.
Therefore, in this blog post, we will go in-depth about the importance of practicing proper hand hygiene and explain how it can save lives.
Table of Contents
Preventing The Spread of Infection
Let’s start by taking a closer look at the spread of infection. When germs, such as bacteria or viruses, get into our bodies, they can make us sick. Sometimes, we can get these germs on our hands without even realizing it. For example, if we touch a doorknob that someone who is sick has touched, we can pick up their germs. If we then touch our eyes, nose, or mouth, we can give those germs a way to enter our bodies and make us sick. This is why it’s so important to wash our hands regularly and thoroughly, especially after we’ve been in contact with people who are sick or after touching surfaces that may be contaminated.
It’s estimated that approximately 100,000 people die each year from healthcare-associated infections (HAIs). This means that infections that they acquired while in the hospital or another healthcare setting. And while some of these infections are unavoidable, many of them could be prevented with better sanitation and hand hygiene.
One study found that proper hand hygiene could prevent up to 30% of HAIs. This means that practicing proper hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infection in healthcare settings. And since HAIs can often be life-threatening, this means that hand hygiene can save lives.
And even though healthcare workers are constantly taking precautions to avoid infection, outbreaks like Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) still happen. And still one of the most effective C diff precautions is proper sanitation and frequent handwashing. Bacteriae like C. diff can cause severe diarrhea and other life-threatening symptoms, so healthcare workers must take every possible step to prevent its spread.
Reduced Risk of Antibiotic Resistance
Antibiotic resistance occurs when bacteria evolve to become resistant to the antibiotics that are used to treat infections. When this happens, those antibiotics are no longer effective against those bacteria. This is a major problem because it means that we will not be able to effectively treat infections with those antibiotics in the future.
One of the ways that antibiotic resistance develops is through the overuse of antibiotics. When we take antibiotics unnecessarily, such as when we take them to treat a cold or the flu (which are caused by viruses, not bacteria), we are contributing to the development of antibiotic resistance. Not only is this unnecessary use of antibiotics ineffective, but it also helps to fuel the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria
Antibiotic resistance can be spread through improper hand hygiene. When we don’t wash our hands properly, we can spread bacteria from our hands to other people or surfaces. If those bacteria happen to be resistant to antibiotics, then we are helping to spread antibiotic resistance. Therefore, it’s important to practice proper hand hygiene not only to protect ourselves from infection but also to help prevent the development of antibiotic resistance.
Reduced Risk of Food Contamination
We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” Well, it turns out that this is quite true. The food we eat can have a major impact on our health. This is why it’s so important to make sure that the food we eat is safe and free of contaminants.
One of the most common ways that food becomes contaminated is through improper hand hygiene. If food handlers don’t wash their hands properly, they can spread bacteria from their hands to the food they’re handling. And if we then eat that food, we can become sick with whatever bacteria were present on those hands.
The most common foodborne illness is Salmonella, which is estimated to cause 1.2 million illnesses and 450 deaths each year in the United States. And while there are many different ways that Salmonella can contaminate food, one of the most common is through improper hand hygiene. So, whenever you’re handling food, it’s important to make sure that you’re washing your hands properly and often.
Reduced Transmission of Respiratory illnesses
Respiratory illnesses like the flu and the common cold are caused by viruses that are spread through the air. When someone with a respiratory illness coughs or sneezes, they release droplets into the air that can then be inhaled by other people. This is how these illnesses are spread from person to person.
One of the best ways to prevent the spread of respiratory illness is through proper hand hygiene. Remember, respiratory viruses are spread through droplets, and those droplets can end up on our hands. If we then touch our face (which we do quite often), we can transfer those viruses to our nose or mouth, where they can enter our body and make us sick. Therefore, it’s important to wash our hands often, especially during cold and flu season. It is also a good idea to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers when soap and water are not available.
Improved Overall Health
When we practice proper hand hygiene, we’re not just protecting ourselves from infection. We’re also taking a major step towards improving our overall health. This is because good hand hygiene helps to remove dirt, bacteria, and other contaminants from our hands. And these contaminants can harm our health, even if they don’t make us sick. It is enough that it decreases our ability to fight off infection and disease.
Also, several studies have shown that exposure to certain types of bacteria can increase our risk for obesity. So, by removing these bacteria from our hands (and thus reducing our exposure to them), we may be able to lower our risk for obesity and other health problems.
In addition, good hand hygiene can help to improve our mental health. When we feel healthy and free of illness, we tend to feel better mentally as well. This is because our mental health is closely linked to our physical health. So, by practicing proper hand hygiene, we can help improve both our physical and mental health.
While most of us don’t think about it daily, as you can see, hand hygiene is a very important part of our overall health. By taking the time to wash our hands properly and often, we can protect ourselves from infection, food contamination, and respiratory illness. We can also help improve our overall health. So, the next time you go to wash your hands, remember the importance of doing it properly. It may even save your life.