National Handwashing Awareness Week (Dec. 6–12): Why it’s More Important Than Ever in 2020 and 2021

National Handwashing Awareness Week is celebrated during the first full week of December. This year, it was held on December 6th thru 12th. The purpose of this observance was to educate people on the importance of good hand hygiene and the proper techniques to follow. 

As important as handwashing has always been, it’s especially crucial now. Washing your hands regularly can help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including the novel coronavirus. But it’s important to make sure you’re washing correctly. A quick rinse isn’t enough to kill germs. 

Why is Handwashing Important? And How Does it Prevent the Spread of Infections? 

Keeping your hands clean is one of the best things you can do for your health. Many diseases are spread by not washing the hands with soap and water. Consider that respiratory viruses alone are reduced by 16-21% with proper handwashing. This is why all senior home care workers are educated on proper handwashing techniques. 

Here are some of the reasons why washing hands is essential for good health.

  • People frequently touch their eyes, nose and mouth without realizing it, but this is an entry point for germs. 
  • Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks and multiply, making people sick.
  • Unwashed hands allow germs to spread onto surfaces like toys, handrails and tabletops. 
  • Diarrheal and respiratory infections are commonly spread through unclean hands. These illnesses also require antibiotics at times, contributing to the overuse of these drugs. 

Tips for Effective Handwashing 

A quick rinse under warm water isn’t enough to get your hands clean. Here are five steps to follow EVERY time you wash your hands. 

  1. Wet your hands with clean running water. 
  2. Lather the hands with soap and rub them together. 
  3. Scrub your hands for 20 seconds. 
  4. Rinse your hands with clean running water. 
  5. Dry your hands with a clean towel. 

The best times to wash your hands are before, during and after preparing food, after using the toilet, before and after caring for someone who is sick and after blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. You’ll notice that our home health aides are diligent with handwashing this cold and flu season! 

Be Safe this Winter. Wash Your Hands! 

Handwashing is an easy and effective way to protect yourself and others from germs and viruses. Even though it’s simple, many people get complacent and end up skipping handwashing or washing too quickly. By taking the time to go through the five steps listed above, you can protect yourself and others from illnesses like COVID-19. 


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