Global Handwashing Day is an annual global advocacy day dedicated to promoting soap-free handwashing as a simple, practical, and cost-effective strategy to prevent disease and save lives. The Global Handwashing Partnership founded Global Handwashing Day as an opportunity to design, test, and repeat unique ways to urge people to wash their hands with soap at key times. Global Handwashing Day is celebrated every year on October 15th.
The first Global Handwashing Day was held in the year 2008 when over 120 million youngsters from more than 70 nations cleaned their hands with soap. Since 2008, community and national leaders have used Global Handwashing Day to raise awareness about handwashing, construct sinks, and tippy taps, and illustrate the ease and benefit of clean hands. Since then, Global Handwashing Day has grown in popularity. Global Handwashing Day is endorsed by schools, governments, civil society, international institutions, NGOs, individuals, private companies, and many more.
Global Handwashing Day 2023‘s theme is “Clean Hands Are Within Reach.”
Germs: They are everywhere
Deadly microbes that trigger illnesses like COVID-19, cholera, flu, conjunctivitis, chickenpox. Hepatitis A and B can live on your hands’ skin. How? As they reach your hands when you contact everyday objects such as money coins/notes, public transportation handrails, toilet flushes, washroom door knobs, lift handles, workplace utilities, and so on. They can survive on your hands for hours. So if you eat with unclean hands or touch your nose or eyes with them, you are very certainly infected with COVID-19 or one of the other contact transmission diseases.
Handwashing- Your Weapon Against Germs
According to research, consistent hand washing can prevent nearly 1 million deaths per year. So, whenever you touch something outside your home, wash your hands.
So How Does Handwashing Work?
- Soap and water/liquid hand wash: Liquid hand wash contains skin-friendly chemicals that are toxic to bacteria. These compounds can kill any surface-dwelling bacteria, viruses, or fungi. When you hold your hands under running water, any remaining bacteria are flushed away, leaving your hands clean and pathogen-free.
- Sanitizer: Propanol and isopropanol, which are used to make alcohol-based hand sanitizers, can damage cells (but just germs, not your skin cells). When a virus, bacteria, or fungus comes into contact with alcohol, the protein structure of the virus, bacterium, or fungus is destroyed. If you are traveling, bring an alcohol hand sanitizer with you.
The Correct Handwashing Technique
Handwashing is only effective when done correctly. If you are using water and handwashing-
- Wet your hands.
- Using a coin-sized amount of handwash.
- To make a foam, rub the ingredients together.
- Rub your fingers together to get the soap into the gaps between your fingers.
- Now, lather the backs of your hands all the way up to your wrists.
- Pay close attention to the base of the thumbs, which are sometimes forgotten when handwashing.
- Make sure you wash the underside of your nails where germs and dirt accumulate.
- Wash thoroughly with flowing water.
- Scrub your hands with water and hand wash for at least 20 seconds.
If You are Using Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer
- Squeeze out around 3 mL of hand sanitizer.
- Rub the alcohol-based sanitizer between your palms and the backs of your hands in the same way you would a conventional hand wash.
- Pay great attention to the flesh between your fingers.
Hand Wash vs Hand Sanitizer: Which One Should You Opt for?
In terms of destroying germs, both alcohol-based hand sanitizer and handwash are equally effective. If you are in the office or at home, use water and liquid handwash as this strategy can also remove dirt, which hand sanitizers can’t. Always use hand sanitizers that contain at least 60% alcohol.
Handwashing is a cost-effective and simple way to keep yourself and your loved ones safe. Prevention is better than cure. So, make a habit of using hand sanitizer and liquid handwash right away.
A Cost-Effective Intervention
During the COVID-19 pandemic, 3 in 10 people worldwide could not wash their hands with water and soap at home. Even today, 43% of healthcare workers are unable to wash their hands before delivering care. Similarly, 47% of schools in underdeveloped nations lack handwashing facilities, leaving 900 million pupils globally without a place to wash their hands while at school. There are also huge disparities between low-and high-income countries, and between urban and rural areas. To achieve one of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations of having everyone be able to wash their hands at home by 2030, governments must move at least four times faster.
Accelerating advancement would have numerous advantages. Handwashing with soap can reduce:
- Acute respiratory infections by up to 23%
- The personal risk of seasonal flu and colds by 36%
- The risk of endemic diarrhea by 30-48%
- Infant deaths caused by infections by 27%
- Missed school days by 43%
- Increases the risk of pneumonia by up to 50%
Handwashing is also one of the least expensive strategies to promote public health, with a cost of only US$3 per disability-adjusted life year. Investing in programs that encourage soap-free handwashing can potentially yield significant economic benefits. In India, for example, such programs may generate a net return of $5.6 billion. According to WaterAid’s research, all people having access to clean water and soap could cut disease outbreaks by up to 20% and save more than $2.6 trillion in health costs between now and 2040.
Dr. Sheetu Singh is a shining beacon of inspiration and dedication in public health, making her an ideal role model to honor on Global Handwashing Day 2023. As a renowned specialist in hygiene and infectious disease prevention, she has relentlessly fought for the simple yet critical habit of handwashing, highlighting its critical role in protecting public health. Her dedication to promoting handwashing as a low-cost, life-saving action has unquestionably made the world a safer and healthier place.