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Handwashing: The Key to Good Health!

Hip, Hip, Hooray! October 15th is Global Handwashing Day! On October 15, 2008, the first Global Handwashing Day took place when over 120 million children around the world washed their hands in more than 70 countries.

The Global Public-Private Partnership for Handwashing Exit disclaimer founded this beneficial day to encourage schools, teachers, and families to get involved. For eight years, community and national leaders have used Global Handwashing Day to spread the word about handwashing, build sinks and tippy taps, and demonstrate the simplicity and value of clean hands.

Row of hands washing at faucetsHandwashing with soap could prevent a third of the cases of diarrhea in young children according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Handwashing is the most economical, yet often forgotten, way to prevent cross-contamination (a transfer of harmful bacteria to food from other foods, cutting boards, and utensils). Also, if you touch food with dirty hands, germs could spread, grow, and cause food poisoning.

The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service has tips to make sure that you and your family are properly washing your hands. Cleanliness is a major factor in preventing foodborne illness. It is essential to lather and scrub your hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds (Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice). Lathering and scrubbing hands with soap creates friction, which helps lift dirt, grease, and microbes from skin. Microbes are present on all surfaces of the hand, often in particularly high concentration under the nails, so the entire hand should be scrubbed.

Here are some great opportunities to show off your great handwashing skills:

  • Before and after handling food,
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound,
  • After using the bathroom,
  • After changing a diaper,
  • After handling pets,
  • After handling pet waste, pet food, or pet treats,
  • After touching garbage,
  • After tending to a sick person,
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing, and
  • After handling uncooked eggs or raw meat, poultry, or fish and their juices

When soap and water are unavailable, a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is a second choice. Although hand sanitizer is an acceptable alternative, it does not always remove or inactivate certain kinds of germs, especially if hands are dirty or greasy, so use soap and water as a first choice. Most people do not use sanitizer properly. Whether they are not using a large enough amount or wiping it off before it can dry, the improper use of hand sanitizer defeats its purpose. To know how to properly use hand sanitizer, refer to the World Health Organization’s How to Handrub Exit disclaimer poster for instructions on how to effectively remove bacteria with alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Be a part of this great day by continuing to keep your hands clean from bacteria and tell a friend to do the same!

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Posted in: Bacteria/Virus | SafetyTagged: Food Safety | illness