By Khalifa Hemed
Published March 10, 2018
Did you know that washing our hands is both an art and a science? And that a shortage of water is no excuse for not washing our hands, especially in African towns?
Though research shows that people catch colds and other infections through dirty hands than other factors, three out of 10 people do not wash their hands after visiting the toilet even if they are going to eat immediately afterwards.This happens a lot in nyama-choma (roast meat) eateries in urban Kenya.
Keyboards of laptops, tablet and cellphone, like matatu seats, hold germs that could harm a person who eats without washing one’s hands after using them.
Authoritative sources like The US Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology estimate that at least 80 per cent of ailments are transmitted by our hands rather than the air, contrary to popular belief. And why would be surprised as 30 per cent of us do not wash our hands after visiting the toilet even if we are going to eat immediately afterwards?
“Washing your hands is the best, simplest and most economical way of preventing the spread of many infections,” says Awake! magazine.
Hands can transmit germs to food and set off a chain of contamination, the publication says. The best way to break this chain, it advises, is for people to always wash their hands after visiting the bathroom with soap and hot or warm water for at least 30 seconds to kill bacteria.
While washing, the hands should be rubbed together for between 10 and 15 seconds, without forgetting to wash under the fingernails as well.
Starting from the arm and working towards the fingers, hands should be rinsed and dried well.
Research shows that most people who use hot-air dryers do not dry their hands thoroughly, preferring to complete the exercise by wiping the hands on their clothes. As this can spread dangerous micro-organisms left on the hands, researchers say it is best to dry the hands completely using disposable paper towels or clean, unused paper towels.
The US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention offers the following guidelines on hand washing:
- Always use warm running water and mild soap. If a basin is to be used, disinfect it each time it is used
- Rub hands together vigorously for 15 seconds until a soapy lather appears. Scrub the tops and palms as well as between fingers and under fingernails
- Rinse hands under warm running water
- Dry with a clean disposable or single use towel, avoiding touching the faucet or towel holder with clean hands
- Turn the faucet off using the towel as a barrier to keep from touching the handle, and
- Children should wash standing at a height where their hands can hang freely under the running water.