Every year, October 15th is observed as Global Handwashing Day to highlight the importance of washing our hands with soap and clean running water, which is an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases like sepsis, diarrhoea and pneumonia. The theme for the 2019 Global Handwashing Day is “Clean Hands for All”, reminding us that we must be inclusive when addressing handwashing disparities. It’s important to note that hygiene is a basic right and that it should be available and accessible to all.
Washing hands with soap and clean, running water is a simple habit that can help prevent diseases such as diarrhoea and pneumonia, the leading causes of death for children under 5-years. Properly washing hands can save lives, reduce diarrhoea by almost one-half and acute respiratory infections by nearly one-quarter. Keeping hands clean can cut the number of germs and prevent them from spreading.
WAYS HANDWASHING PREVENTS DISEASES AND SAVES LIVES
Washing our hands with soap removes germs and helps prevent the spread of infections to others. This is due to the fact that:
- Germs from unwashed hands can get into the body through foods and drinks. Some types of food can cause germs to multiply under certain conditions, making people sick.
- Germs can enter your body through the mouth, nose, eyes, breaks in the skin, etc. People often touch these areas without even realising it.
- Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to another person’s hands by touching objects and materials, such as toys, handrails, tabletops, etc.
- Handwashing with soap at critical times throughout the day will remove germs, helping to prevent diseases such as diarrhoea, pneumonia, and other respiratory infections like colds. It may also help prevent skin and eye infections.
According to the CDC, handwashing education in the community can help improve health in many ways:
- It cuts the number of people getting sick with diarrhoea by 23-40 per cent
- It reduces the risk of diarrhoeal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58 per cent
- It lowers respiratory problems such as colds in the general population by 16-21 per cent
- It reduces absenteeism caused by gastrointestinal illness in schoolchildren by 29-57 per cent
HAND HYGIENE – KEY DEFENCE IN THE FIGHT AGAINST ANTIBIOTIC RESISTANCE
Practicing good hygiene, including washing hands, can help battle the rise in antibiotic resistance by preventing diseases and infections. Taking steps to prevent diseases would reduce the number of antibiotics people take unnecessarily for various health issues, thereby lowering the risk of developing antibiotic resistance. By washing hands frequently, you can reduce the risk of infections and prevent antibiotic overuse, which is the single most important factor that leads to antibiotic resistance worldwide.
The bottom line is, washing hands with soap and clean water is one of the easiest and effective steps one can take to help prevent diseases and stay healthy.