The most important hygiene rule: washing hands protects against serious illnesses

Simple infection protection: Why washing hands is so important
On the occasion of the World Hand Washing Day, experts refer every year to the importance of this hygiene measure in terms of health. You can protect yourself against infectious diseases by washing your hands regularly. But it has to be thorough enough for that.

Regular hand washing protects against diseases
Even at a young age, many children are taught the saying: "After the toilet and before eating - don't forget to wash your hands". Unfortunately, execution sometimes fails, even with adults. Even though hand washing is the most important hygiene rule. It can significantly reduce the risk of diseases such as diarrhea or flu. For World Hand Washing Day on October 15, experts will explain what must be considered when washing hands.

Hygiene is often neglected
According to estimates by the World Health Organization (WHO), up to 80 percent of all infectious diseases are transmitted via the hands. According to medical experts, the risk of developing gastrointestinal infections, diarrhea, flu or the common cold can be significantly reduced by washing your hands properly. Nevertheless, hygiene is often neglected, especially among men, as a survey by the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) showed.

According to the experts, this is also confirmed by observational studies by the "London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine" with around 250,000 visitors to restroom toilets. It turned out that not even every third man uses water and soap there, but 64 percent of women do.

Wash long enough
To achieve protection against infectious diseases, however, hand washing must be correct and long enough. According to experts, it would take 20 to 30 seconds for the germs to disappear reliably. However, very few people stick to it.

In order to keep the time, one could follow a advice that the children's aid organization Unicef ‚Äč‚Äčonce gave: Singing "Happy Birthday" while washing your hands twice in a row. This is the optimal time to remove most dangerous bacteria and viruses.

With or without soap?
It is not true that washing hands without soap is pointless, but according to health experts it is much more effective to use soap, as it removes dirt and microbes from the skin better than water alone. The water temperature is not so important. However, fat and dirt dissolve somewhat more easily in warm water.

Drying is also important
In addition to washing, drying is also important, since damp hands can harbor a lot more germs than dry hands. Manufacturers of paper towels and hot air dryers have been fighting fiercely for years to properly dry their hands.

Studies are repeatedly commissioned from both sides to prove that their products are more suitable. The results therefore usually fluctuate significantly - depending on the client. What most experts agree: used towels should be washed regularly at a minimum of 60 degrees.

Action day indicates health significance
The International Hand Washing Day, launched by the WHO, was first celebrated in 2008. On the occasion of other campaign days such as World Water Day or World Hygiene Day, the health significance of hygiene rule number one is repeatedly pointed out. Among other things, from the children's aid organization Unicef, which primarily wants to reach children in developing countries. (ad)

Author and source information

Video: Hand Hygiene NEJM Chinese (September 2021).