RTs: Your Health Is in Your Hands
Want to take your health into your own hands this winter? Try washing them! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hand washing is the single most important means of preventing the spread of infections. We hear this a million times during our careers, yet some are still deficient at this simple task.
Think about all the things that you touched today: the keyboard on your computer, the handle of the grocery cart, an ATM screen, doorknobs, the toilet handle. No matter what you touched, you came in contact with germs. You can pick up germs when you touch surfaces like keyboards and then touch your own eyes, nose, or mouth before washing your hands. According to the CDC, some viruses and bacteria can live two hours or longer on surfaces like doorknobs and desks.
There is no magic number as to how often you should wash your hands, but you should always wash your hands before eating, after using the toilet, after blowing your nose, after coughing or sneezing into your hands, after handling the garbage, before and after handling food, after changing a diaper, after touching animals or animal waste, before and after touching a sick or injured person, and before inserting or removing contact lenses. As a very rough guide, if you are not washing your hands at least 10 times a day on a day off, you probably are not washing them enough. A work day means more hand washing. If you think about it, you are probably visiting the restroom three or four times a day, and you are probably having three meals a day, and that alone adds up to seven times, and I guarantee you the other three add up quickly.
Remember, restaurant employees are not the only ones who need to wash their hands before handling food. According to the Food and Drug Administration, proper hand washing can stop up to half of all food borne illnesses. Washing your hands often will help prevent bacteria spreading from raw meat and poultry to the vegetables you are chopping up for your salad. Whether you work in a five-star restaurant or are cooking at home, wash your hands!
When it comes to washing hands, any kind of soap and water will do the trick, and the soap does not have to be antibacterial. "It can be plain old soap and water," says Michael Bell, MD, associate director for infection control at the CDC. "The combination of the detergent action of the soap and the physical action of rinsing after you wash do a great job of removing or inactivating the germs on your hands," says Bell. Wet your hands using warm water, then wash them with soap for 20 seconds. How long is 20 seconds? Try singing the "Happy Birthday" song twice. Do not forget to wash between your fingers and under your nails, as well as the backs of your hands, which people frequently miss. Soap and water not handy? Pack some alcohol-based hand sanitizer in your purse or pocket. It is a terrific option if you do not have soap and water near by.
In my opinion, this is the simplest form of disease control and prevention, yet a skill many of us have not mastered. Don't believe me? Pick a busy spot where you are not in the way, and watch people you work with. See how often they wash their hands. Do the same thing at home. Does the cook in your house wash his or her hands before fixing your food? Does he or she wash them again after scratching his face or after she makes a quick trip to the restroom? Give something good this year for Christmas: good health. Wash your hands often, and teach others to do the same.
That's just my opinion, Jim Thacker, MHA, CRT, AE-C, Lexington, MO