Wash your hands! It’s such simple advice – and yet it can have a powerful effect on your health and that of people around you. December 4-11 is National Hand Washing Awareness Week: celebrate with a good lathering and some warm water. Here’s why it’s so important.
A Medical Discovery
Name the most important medical advancement in the last two centuries. Vaccines? Surgical anesthetic? Antibiotics and antivirals? X-rays and imaging? How about soap and water!
In 1847, Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis, who specialized in obstetrics in Austria, noticed that at one clinic the infant mortality rate was 7 percent while at the other in which he worked, it was 16 percent. He thought he knew why: the doctors at one would enter the autopsy room and then go directly to birthing rooms. Semmelweis wondered if the doctors were bringing traces of fatal flu with them.
He asked doctors to wash their hands with a chlorinated lime solution. It worked. The infant mortality rate dropped to 3 percent.
Still, not everyone bought in, and hand washing as a lifesaver took a while to catch on. Today, though, the medical community – and preschool teachers everywhere – agree that conscientious washing can help prevent the spread of germs and illnesses.
Wash up with some tips from the World Health Organization:
In a pinch, hand sanitizer will do. Choose one that contains 60 percent alcohol. This isn’t a hand washing replacement though; it doesn’t kill all types of germs and it doesn’t remove other substances, like chemicals.
That’s all there is to it. Five simple steps to better health. Spread the word about proper hand washing – and don’t spread the germs!