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Qu'est-ce-qu'un lavage de main efficace ?

An effective hand wash: what is it?

Although hand washing is a fundamental health practice, many of us still do not perform it correctly. Indeed, hand washing must be carried out following specific steps to be effective. Here they are.

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Washing your hands: why is it so important?

The significance of hand washing was established over a century ago. This hygiene measure was adopted at the beginning of the 20th century and continues to be practised today. But why is it important to clean our hands daily? It's important to understand that our hands can accumulate germs throughout the day, especially when you are in an environment teeming with microorganisms, such as bacteria, viruses, or even moulds. Moreover, these microbes can infiltrate your body and cause infectious diseases (gastroenteritis, flu, etc...). Good hygiene is therefore crucial to protect your health and those around you, as these microbes can easily be transmitted from one person to another.

How to wash hands effectively?

Frequent hand washing is one of the best alternatives to prevent and limit the spread of infections, provided it is done correctly. Indeed, sometimes it is enough to touch a contaminated object and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth to contract germs. Thus, an effective hand wash is a regular wash, which follows a good number of steps, and is done with water and a sufficient amount of soap. It is not enough to just scrub and rinse your hands quickly to eliminate all traces of pathogens and dirt on your hands. Here is the procedure to follow:

  1. First and foremost, thoroughly wet your hands with running water;

  2. Next, take a generous amount of soap to ensure you cover the entire surface of your wet hands;

  3. Create a lather with the product by rubbing the palms of your hands together. Then, massage your wrists in circular motions.

  4. Also, take care to thoroughly clean the insides of your fingers by pinching them, the thumbs, under the nails, and the backs of your hands. It is through friction that microorganisms will detach from the surface of the hands. For hand washing to be effective, it must last at least 30 seconds ;

  5. All that remains is to thoroughly rinse your hands under running water and scrupulously dry them. Even if you wash your hands correctly, if you do not dry them well then all your efforts will be counterproductive. Indeed, wet hands provide better conditions for spreading germs than dry hands. Here are some figures to give you an idea: 85% of microorganisms are transmitted by wet hands compared to 0.06% for dry hands. However, the drying method used is important. A study has shown that hands dried with a jet air dryer contained fewer viable bacteria than with a paper towel, thus reducing the risk of infection transmission through touch.

If you do not have access to water, hand disinfection through rubbing with a hydroalcoholic solution, which should contain between 60 and 95% alcohol, serves as a backup solution to reduce the number of germs present on the hands, by directly killing them, in any situation.

Small tip : When travelling, don't forget to take one with you to avoid any risk of contamination. To apply it properly, put a sufficient amount of product in the palm of your hand and cover all surfaces of the hands as well as the wrists. Rub the fingertips, thumbs, inside and outside of the hand, and the spaces between the fingers for about thirty seconds, until the hands are dry.

When should one wash their hands?

Hand washing should be carried out, of course when they are visibly dirty, but also at various times throughout the day. There are numerous occasions in a day when hand washing should be systematic: upon leaving the toilet, before and after meals, after using public transport, before cooking, after handling food particularly meat, after touching rubbish, after petting an animal, before applying your facial treatments, after each contact with a sick person to avoid any contagion, after blowing your nose, after coughing or sneezing, before treating a wound to prevent infection, etc...

In essence, whenever your hands have come into contact with a sick individual or an object of questionable hygiene, it is crucial to meticulously wash your hands, otherwise bacteria and viruses can lodge there. It is recommended to clean your hands at least 10 times per day.

Sources:

  • SALESI M. & al. Bacteriological aspects of hand washing: A key for health promotion and infections control. International Journal of Preventive Medicine (2017).

  • WARNES S. L. & al. The method used to dry washed hands affects the number and type of transient and residential bacteria remaining on the skin. Journal of Hospital Infection (2019).

  • HUNT J. & al. COVID-19 and hand hygiene: the vital importance of hand drying. British Journal of Nursing (2020).

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