December is Hand Washing Awareness Month

December is a busy month filled with family get-togethers, social events at work and friends sharing holiday goodies.  But all these gatherings may also share viruses like the flu that can cause serious illness and for older adults can be life-threatening;  that’s why hand washing awareness is on the minds and lips of health care professionals worldwide.

The month of December marks National Hand Washing Awareness Month, and with so many new findings about the spread and prevention of illness, it’s more important than ever.  Hand sanitizers are commonly used in schools and hospitals but newer research has found that the use of these gels could be creating alcohol and drug-resistant virus strains. 

Instead, experts recommend using plain soap and water, rubbing hands together under water to dislodge harmful microbes.  Antibacterial soaps, especially those containing triclosan, have been found to be no more effective than mechanical scrubbing to clean hands and may also contribute to the appearance of resistant organisms.

The Mayo Clinic conducted its own research and found that paper towels are the best hand-drying method in healthcare settings to maintain a clean environment.  Hand dryers and jet air dryers may spread bacteria, contributing to contamination throughout bathrooms.

The Right Way to Wash

  • Wet your hands with warm or cold water and apply soap.
  • Lather hands by rubbing them together, getting between fingers and on back of hands.
  • (use a nail brush to get under nails)
  • Scrub for 20 seconds (try humming Happy Birthday twice).
  • Rinse hands in running water with fingers pointed down to allow soap and germs to run off.
  • Dry hands with a paper towel or clean hand towel.

Source:  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

If you are visiting an elderly loved-one in their home, nursing home or hospital, be sure to wash when you enter and when you leave, before and after touching any equipment, before and after assisting with any personal care and before and after transporting a senior from one area to another.   Only use hand sanitizer when hand washing is not an option.  Learn more about how hand washing can save lives by following this link to the CDC website.