Whether Covid-19, hepatitis A or norovirus - correct and frequent hand washing prevents infection with numerous pathogens. Making good hand hygiene a habit is an effective and easy way to protect your own health and the health of those around you.
Importance of hand washing during Covid-19
As soon as people move around in public space, they touch many objects with their hands. Viruses and bacteria collect on the surface of the skin. The germs stick to banisters, switches, doorknobs, money, grab bars in public transport and shopping trolleys. Surfaces freshly disinfected only with suitable disinfectants are largely germ-free. Washing hands is a preventive measure so that pathogens do not get from the hands into your own body. Unconsciously, people grab hands, eyes, nose and mouth. A virus such as Covid-19 penetrates the body via the mucous membranes and sets an infection in motion.
Many movements of the hands in the face are carried out casually. In addition to the usual occasions before preparing food, before eating and after going to the toilet, your hands should be washed as soon as you have been in the public space for a long time and you find good washing facilities. Anyone visiting a playground wipes their child's nose, wipes sand from their eyes and opens the water bottle. Viruses can carry all these little things. Regular hand washing reduces the risk many times over.
In order to protect yourself reliably against infection, it is important to wash your hands thoroughly - up to the arm wrist. Watches and rings should be removed for washing. Cold and warm water without soap is not enough to remove stubborn bacteria and viruses. Soap dissolves the lipid-containing shell of the Covid-19 and makes the virus harmless. Liquid soap in dispensers is more hygienic than soap bars.
You should take enough time to wash your hands. It takes 20 seconds to foam in from all sides. Right-handers prefer to wash the left hand with the right hand and vice versa. If a wave of infection is in progress, you should deliberately take turns washing your hands. This may take some time to get used to. Anyone who has internalized the motion sequences will automatically do it correctly in the future. Young children learn to wash their hands thoroughly by parents practicing with them.
In addition to the back of the hand and the palms of the hands, fingertips including fingernails, spaces between fingers and thumbs must be completely covered with soap. After soaping, the soap is washed off thoroughly. The elbow or a disposable towel can be used to close the tap. Like hand dryers in public toilets, these are suitable for drying hands. At home, small guest towels on hooks are suitable in households with several members. These can easily be labeled with the names of the residents and exchanged at regular intervals. This ensures that each person has their own towel. Thorough drying is important. Remaining microorganisms multiply faster in a moist environment. Rubbing while drying removes any germs that are still present.
The hands are not XNUMX% germ-free after washing. However, the number of bacteria and viruses has decreased significantly, sometimes down to a thousandth. The hands can be largely excluded as a transmission medium.
Additional preventive measures
Some people prefer disinfectants over hand washing. It is faster and requires less effort. Many people use both in combination. While some experts recommend the use of suitable disinfectants, especially those based on ethanol, others consider hand disinfection to be a superfluous measure in the private sphere. They see the fact that homemade alcohol-based disinfectants do not contain lipid replenishers. They are necessary so that the skin does not crack and does not become brittle. If the skin surface is affected and it is not properly cared for, germs can penetrate more easily. Regular hand disinfection is essential in the medical environment. This applies to all people before visiting a hospital, handicapped and nursing home.
Many people wonder whether disposable gloves can protect, for example, when shopping in a supermarket and in drug stores. Provided that you follow the same hygiene rules as without gloves and do not touch your face while wearing them, they offer protection. It is important to wear the gloves once and to dispose of them in an environmentally friendly manner after shopping. Here you have to take care of the correct undressing without touching with your bare fingers. which is difficult in practice. Handkerchiefs help you to touch them. Experts warn against wearing any other preventive measures such as hand washing by wearing disposable gloves. Some rate gloves as germ distributors because there are significantly more germs on the plastic surface than on human skin. The distribution of the germs is correspondingly generous.
Keeping distance is one of the most important preventive protective measures. When an infected person speaks, droplets of saliva with viruses are distributed in the air. At a minimum distance of 1,5 to 2 meters, the closest person is far enough away to be protected from infection by inhalation. It is more dangerous if an infected person coughs. The rule is: coughing into the crook of your arm even in the event of a normal cold should be a matter of course. Maybe in the future masks will prevail with us like in Asia. Regular ventilation at work and in your own four walls ensures good air exchange and strengthens the immune system.
Respirator mask as effective protection
Experts worldwide recommend face masks as protection against Covid-19. It has been proven that droplet infection is one of the most common forms of transmission and the virus can survive in the air for a few hours. Even when speaking, only droplets of saliva get into the air. They are inhaled by people nearby. Machine-made, laboratory masks like FFP2 and KN95 are still difficult to obtain. For this reason, many people use self-made cotton masks. Professional masks contain filter material through which the breathing air flows before inhalation. FFP2 and KN95 masks have a comparable filter level. FFP3 masks offer even more effective protection thanks to a higher filter level.
When wearing the masks, make sure they are handled correctly. In order not to contaminate the masks with germs, you should wash your hands thoroughly before touching the unpacked mask and before putting it on. The respirator should be appropriate to the size of your face to seal properly. Pure surgical masks aim to prevent the spread of viruses from the wearer towards the patient and do not offer a tight fit like certified FFP2 and KN95 masks. Only the latter filter the air we breathe. They are the best protection for medical personnel and private individuals who come into direct contact with infected patients.
Hand-sewn cotton masks with a second layer of silk protect according to American studies comparable to a KN95 mask. The quality of workmanship is crucial. A cotton mask should be washed at least 60 degrees Celsius after each use. Alternatively, the mask can be cleaned for 5 minutes in boiling water or by extremely hot ironing. Disinfection in the oven and in the microwave should be avoided due to the danger of flying sparks through the embedded wire. The wire is over the nose when worn and guarantees that the mask adapts optimally to the shape of the face.
Impact on pandemic containment
Proper and frequent hand washing helps curb Covid-19. Poor hand hygiene can delay the duration of the pandemic. The rule is: If there is no soap available, you should not do without washing your hands with plain water. Studies have shown that washing with clean water can reduce the risk of contracting diarrhea.
Poor countries are a major concern for WHO. There is no running water in many areas. Good hand hygiene is not part of everyday behavior. Not least for these reasons, an uncontrolled spread of Covid-19 is feared. Education is currently the most important measure to contain the pandemic.