Nedra Jack July 11, 2018

You’re probably doing the most fundamental of all actions – washing your hands with water – quite wrong. We tell you how to do it right.

Sometimes, it’s the simplest things in life that complicate matters for you. Take, for instance, the fact that you catch a cold pretty frequently. You might put it down to a lowered immunity – but have you examined your hands?

If you think this article has started on an outlandish note, here’s more food for thought: Did you know that it is probably not your reduced immunity, but maybe the state of your hands that is making you ill all the time? Believe it or not, your hands have the potential to harbour millions of microscopic bacteria and germs. Though many of these are harmless and may live on the skin without affecting you, some of them may be infectious. Infectious germs often cause the common cold, cough and influenza.

So try keeping your hands really clean for a month and see the difference it makes to your health. If it doesn’t, it means one of two things:

  1. You need to take more tests and consult a doctor, because you’re probably harbouring a bug.
  2. You’re not washing your hands right.

Let’s look at Scenario #2 in some detail.

Your health is (literally) in your hands

Here’s how you get a cold, cough or the flu: germs that cause these illnesses find a way into your system via the eyes, nose or mouth. This happens most often when you inadvertently inhale the droplets left behind in the air when someone with a cold sneezes near you, or you touch a surface that is contaminated with these germs.

When you touch your face with unclean hands, the germs find their way into your body. Once in, they begin to incubate. In a day or two, you begin to experience the first symptoms of cold and flu: runny nose, headache, sore throat, body pain, nausea, and in some cases, chills.

Thus, keeping your hands clean is the answer to repeated bouts of cold and fever. But merely rinsing them with soap and water is not enough. There is a proper handwashing technique you need to follow – you’re probably not washing your hands right.

How to wash the hands – a primer

  • Wet hands under running water.
  • Take a good antibacterial soap like Dettol handwash on the palm of your hand. A coin-sized amount is sufficient.
  • Rub the soap into your hands by rubbing both palms together. Also run the soap on the webbing between your fingers, and inside the fingernails.
  • Here’s the crucial detail you’ve been missing all along: Rub the soap into your hands for one whole minute. Hum ‘Happy birthday’ under your breath while you do so – you should rub your hands with soap for the duration of the song to get ALL the germs out.
  • Rinse off the soap under running water till all traces of soap are removed.
  • Wipe your hands on clean blotting paper. Avoid using the cotton flannel provided in public restrooms – these are rife with germs since they are used repeatedly!

There you have it – the simple guide to washing your hands correctly. Make it a point to wash your hands at least once in two hours using the method outlined above, and infectious germs will not stand a chance!

When to wash your hands

Don’t wait for your hands to get visibly dirty or greasy, just wash them once an hour or once in a couple of hours. It is recommended that you use handwash to clean your hands. Using an antibacterial handwash that is mild on the skin keeps your hands free from germs and illness-causing microbes.

Also make it a point to wash your hands –

  • After using the washroom
  • After shaking hands with a sick person, or being near a person who has a cold and who has been sneezing or coughing close by
  • After touching surfaces that are commonly used by many hands during the day, like elevator buttons, guard rails, bannisters, faucets, door knobs and handles, phones, workplace computer keyboards, etc.
  • Before and after handling raw food items
  • Booking cooking meals
  • After changing the baby’s diaper or cleaning out the baby’s potty
  • After cleaning the sink, toilet or washroom tiles
  • While caring for a sick person
  • Before using your hands to eat
  • After returning home from the outdoors
  • After being exposed to dirt, dust and muck in the monsoon season, or coming in contact with muddy water

Look for an antibacterial handwash that kills up to 99% germs in one use. The soap is your best friend during cold and flu season, and when the monsoon comes around and makes the damp weather rife with infectious diseases.