male washing hands

The importance of hand washing

Since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak – it has been stressed from the start the importance of washing your hands to prevent the spread of the virus.

Below we go into a bit more detail on why we should be regularly singing happy birthday to our hands and the science behind the importance of handwashing during the outbreak of the virus:

Why is washing your hands so important?

Washing your hands with soap and water regularly remove many microbes, including the Coronavirus.

COVID-19 has a membrane of oily lipid molecules, which is studded with proteins that help the virus infect cells.

Soap molecules have a hybrid structure with a head that bonds to water and a tail that avoids it.

These soapy molecules, therefore, remove the virus when the water-shunning tails of the soap molecules wedge themselves into the lipid membrane and pry it apart.

Soap traps dirt and fragments of the destroyed virus in tiny bubbles called micelles, which wash away in warm water.

When is the best time to wash my hands?

In the following scenarios you should be washing your hands:

  • After use of the toilet or changing a nappy
  • Before and after the preparation of food, especially in the context of handling raw meat and vegetables
  • Before you start and after you finish your meal
  • If you cough or sneeze into a tissue, dispose of the tissue and wash your hands
  • Regularly wash your hands if touching pets
  • After returning from your daily exercise or walk and also after visiting a shop

What is the best practice when washing your hands?

The amount of time you should spend washing your hands is approximately twenty seconds.

That’s around about the same time as (depending on who you listen to) singing happy birthday twice or the national anthem.

The NHS directive for washing your hands effectively is as follows :

  1. Firstly, wet your hands with water
  2. Apply enough soap to cover your hands
  3. Rub your hands together
  4. Use the first hand to rub the back of the other hand and clean between all fingers. Then swap and repeat
  5. Rub your hands front on together and clean between the fingers again.
  6. Rub the backs of your fingers against your palms
  7. Rub your thumb using your other hand and repeat for the other thumb
  8. Rub the tips of your fingers in the palm of your hand and repeat for the other hand
  9. Rinse your hands with water and dry with a disposable towel, and turn the tap off with the same towel.

Whilst it may seem a fairly insignificant task – washing your hands is absolutely essential in the spread of this virus, so it’s hugely important to follow the above steps to destroy the virus and not only prevent the spread but also stop it from affecting you.

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Last updated: 02 November 2020

Sources:https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/healthy-body/best-way-to-wash-your-hands/ https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/13/health/soap-coronavirus-handwashing-germs.html
Coronavirus (COVID-19)Immunity