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Proper Hand Hygiene in the Age of COVID-19

by Aziza · December 1, 2020

Clean hands save lives’ is truer than ever in the age of Covid-19. Washing hands with a soap is the recommended way of keeping clean and stop the spread of the disease. Learn more about hand hygiene during Covid-19 pandemic in this article.

  • Covid-19 and Hand Hygiene
  • When and How to Wash Hands
  • Types of Soaps for Handwashing


Why do We Need to Wash Hands?

Washing hands is a regular part of maintaining hygiene where you clean your hands of any kind of germs that can get you sick. Hand hygiene is one of the best and inexpensive ways of avoiding germs that can harm your health.It is not just about Covid-19 that we are in the midst of right now. Hand washing is effective against clean all kinds of germs from your hand to avoid further transmission.
As you know, hands are very important in doing our work, touching and every other thing under the sun. The problem is that if we do not care for washing our hands, our health might deteriorate.
teach kids to follow hand hygiene procedures

Our hands are primary carriers of pathogens like bacteria and viruses and dirt. They come in constant contact with all kinds of surfaces all day which makes the transmission of pathogens inevitable.
Therefore, it is important that you take great care of yourself; not only for you but also for people who come in contact with you.
Covid-19 and Hand Hygiene:
Hand hygiene is the most effective way of preventing the spread of the disease. This is because hands play a crucial role in transmitting disease through the action of touching or coming in contact with the other.
The spread of Covid-19 is basically because of droplet transmission through the air or through contact. Contact transmission is basically carried out because of hands as droplets or pathogens are transmitted through handshaking or touching surfaces.
This way the virus can go inside your body and spread through mouth, eyes or nose and make you sick. Practicing good hand hygiene is a simple method by very effective in preventing the spread of the disease. Therefore, hand hygiene is needed to halt or slow down the spread of the disease. Hand washing should be frequent even if you can’t see any visible signs of dirt on your hands.


When to wash hands:

Hand washing should be frequent during the times of Covid-19. It is more about keeping your hands clean all the time than just washing them when dirty. This reduces the chances of transmission and ultimately, the disease.
Having said that, there are some specific times when you should take great care to wash your hands. Following are those times:

  • After coughing or sneezing
  • After touching your nose
  • When caring for the sick
  • Entering home from outside
  • Clean your belongings used outside as well
  • Hands when visibly dirty
  • After using toilet
  • Before eating
  • After handling animal waste
  • After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
  • After handling pets or their waste
  • After handling garbage
  • After caring for a sick person
follow proper hand washing procedure to clean hands properly

How to Wash Hands to Practice Hand Hygiene?

To help prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is important is to thoroughly wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Whenever you come from outside, make sure not to touch anything inside your house until you have washed your hands properly.
Make sure to wash your hands 1) after handling anything that is dirty or comes from outside like mail etc. 2) after using bathroom 3) after coughing and sneezing or blowing nose, 4) before eating or preparing food.
It is important that you know and use prescribed method of washing hand so that you are able to cover all surfaces of your hand that otherwise may be left unclean.
Health care workers should take special care of hand hygiene. As the transmission of health care associated infections or pathogens generally occurs via their contaminated hands while attending patients. Also when your are visiting centers for disease control, make sure to wash your hands as many times as possible.
Following is the method of washing hands properly as prescribed by World Health Organization (WHO). Your 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene can go a long way in maintaining good overall health.

    • Wet hands with water.
    • Apply enough soap to cover all hand surfaces.
    • Rub hands palm to palm.
    • Right palm over left dorsum with interlaced fingers and vice versa.
    • Palm to palm with fingers interlaced.
    • Backs of fingers to opposing palms with fingers interlocked.
    • Rotational rubbing of left thumb clasped in right palm and vice versa.
    • Rotational rubbing, backwards and forwards with clasped fingers of right hand in left palm and vice versa.
    • Rinse hands with water.

Dry hands thoroughly.

It is important that you teach your kids to clean their hands properly from a very young age. There are rhymes available now that can help motivate your young ones to wash their hands for 20 seconds.

Hand Hygiene: Protective Hand Care

Washing and using sanitizer on your hands frequently can draw out moisture from your skin and make it dry. Therefore, it is important o protect you hands from drying out by using moisturizers every day. Carry a hand cream or a moisturizer with you when you are outside.
Nails also contribute towards harbouring germs and pathogens on your hands. Therefore, you should regularly cut your nails when they start growing out.

What if Soap is Not Available?

If soap and water are not available, you should carry an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to kill germs on your hands. Clean your hands by rubbing them with an alcohol-based sanitizer. Your sanitizer should have at least 60 percent ethanol, which is also called ethyl alcohol to be able to kill all the germs on your hands.
Follow similar hand washing method when using sanitizer so that you do not miss any area of your hand.

Which is Better Sanitizer or Soap?

Both of these types do the job of killing germs. Soap is an inexpensive method of cleaning hands as compared to sanitizer, but sanitizer is more convenient in settings outside of home where hand washing facility or water is not available.


Types of Hand Hygiene Products

There are certain types of hand hygiene products you can use to wash you hands in place of soap. Soap also comes in different types as illustrated by the following types. Whatever type you may have, make sure to wash hands with any kind of soap.


Soaps remove dirt and other pathogens by the lathering action and washing away with water. In case of viruses with lipid membranes, also true for Coronavirus, the lipid membrane gets washed away with action of soap and water together that results in lather. This actively kills viruses and cleans your hands. Soaps are more effective based on this reason over hand sanitizer. Also, the removal of beneficial lipid cells in your skin means that you are prone to dry skin and sensitivity. Hence regular skin care is essential.

one of the steps of hand washing techniques to maintain hand hygiene

Hand Hygiene Products – Antiseptic Handwash

Antiseptic handwash is similar to soaps but they have added benefit of antiseptic agents found in the handwash. These components penetrate microorganism and kill them by inactivating their cellular replication.
Although antiseptic handwash has the quality of rendering microorganisms invalid, it doesn’t mean that normal soap is not a good option. A general soap also helps get rid of germs but in a different way and it might not be effective on all kinds of germs.

Hand Hygiene Products – ABHS

ABHS are alcohol-based hand sanitizers. As the name suggests, there is usage of alcohol which destroys germs on your hands. It doesn’t require the use of water so it can be used in situations where there is no availability of water.
The experts maintain that for hand sanitizers to work, there should be a certain percentage of alcohol in the sanitizer. This is determined to be between 60 to 95 percent of alcohol.

Hand Hygiene Products – Disinfectant Wipes

Disinfectant wipes work on a similar principle as they contain antibacterial components or alcohol which helps break down outer membrane of viruses to render them unable to spread the disease or kill them.
Antibacterial components kill different kinds of bacteria found on your hands. These not just help clean your hands but also help disinfect surfaces.

Hand Hygiene Products – Skin Complications

As mentioned before, sanitizers and soap can disturb balance of your skin and remove beneficial skin oils from the skin cells. This causes problems of sensitivity in skin like ICD (irritant contact dermatitis) and ACD (allergic contact dermatitis).
In case of these problems, you might want to regulate your hand washing and using moisturizer frequently to prevent these problems in the first place. You may also want to see your doctor if he thinks you might need some sort of medicated cream or ointment for your situation.


Covid-19 is here to stay until we find a vaccine for the problem. Therefore, we need to keep practicing hand hygiene practices as well as social distancing in order to prevent the spread of the disease and protect ourselves.
Hand hygiene is an inexpensive method to make sure you don’t get infected (along with other protections). It is therefore imperative to keep washing hands under running water. Also instruct your family and community to keep themselves and others protected. Washing hands on a regular basis helps in disease control and prevention. Healthcare associated infection can also be reduced. It you wash your hands which are visibly soiled, can primarily help in infection control. It is also important to note that hand washing is not just important during pandemic but also after it.

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