The hands are one of the most common ways infections are transmitted. Your hands come into contact with myriad surfaces teeming with bacteria, viruses, and other microorganisms throughout the day. When you touch your face, consume food, or engage in physical contact with others, there’s a risk of transmitting these germs into your body.
Hand washing acts as a barrier to this transmission. Washing your hands with soap and water eliminates a significant number of harmful pathogens. By reducing the prevalence of these pathogens, the immune system can allocate its resources more effectively, focusing on maintaining overall health rather than battling preventable infections.
And the practice of hand washing has repercussions beyond your personal health; it’s important for the health of the community at large. Consistent hand hygiene can control the spread of infectious agents from person to person, protecting those with potentially compromised immune systems or susceptibility to infections.
The CDC recommends washing your hands throughout the day, before, after, and during food preparation, before and after eating, after going to the bathroom, prior to coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose, and after coming into contact with garbage. Be sure to scrub for no less than 20 seconds, and don’t miss between the fingers, the backs of the hands, and under the nails. If you don’t have access to soap and water, you can use a hand sanitizer with a minimum of 60% alcohol.