Handwashing is one of the major protocols to avoid COVID-19 infection along with social distancing and wearing masks, even after you've been vaccinated.
The coronavirus vaccination roll-out is underway in some parts of the world. The Indian government, perhaps, is all set for the world’s biggest COVID-19 vaccine inoculation drive across the country this week. Yet, health experts have been warning people to adhere to the safety guidelines to mitigate the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, getting vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus does not mean we’re free to go maskless or group outings. Washing your hands, wearing masks and social distancing will, in fact, continue to be crucial even after you’re vaccinated.
Importance of handwashing despite the vaccine
For instance, handwashing has been identified as an effective tool to prevent the novel coronavirus infection and other diseases. Washing our hands with soap remains one of the best defenses against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Washing hands is not only crucial to avoid COVID infection, it can also help in avoiding many more other infections, which can affect our health. Ahead of vaccination roll-out in India, Dr Shruti Arya, Consultant - Internal Medicine - Columbia Asia Hospital Whitefield, Bangalore, tells us how a simple handwash with running water and soap can help in keeping many of the infections, including COVID-19, at bay.
The germs which are present on different objects and surfaces can spread various infections when we touch our face, eyes, nose without washing hands. The virus can stay on the doorknobs, lift buttons, delivery packages for long hours and the chances of spreading the infection is higher if we touch our face without washing or sanitising our hands. Handwashing is one of the major protocols to avoid COVID-19 infection along with social distancing and wearing masks.
Additionally, gastrointestinal infections, such as salmonella, and other respiratory infections are common infections that can spread through fomites.
When should you wash or sanitise your hands?
According to the doctor, you should wash or sanitise your hands:
- After blowing your nose or after sneezing in your hands.
- After touching the door knob and handle, lift buttons.
- After using car, staircase railings, metro, public transport.
- After touching vegetables, packages from outside.
- While removing or wearing a mask.
- Before and after eating or while touching the food.
- After touching food like raw meat, poultry products or fish.
- After handling garbage or contact with contaminated surfaces such as garbage bins, cleaning-cloth.
- After wiping another person’s nose, or handling soiled tissues.
- Before preparing or taking medications.
- When looking after another person who is sick, including close contact with blood or body fluids such as vomit or saliva.
- While treating a cut or wound.
- While using contact lenses.
- Handling pets, animals or animal waste.
- After handling pet food or pet treats.
- After using the washroom (changing diapers, sanitary pads, or assisting a person when using the toilet).
Diseases you can get or spread due to poor hand hygiene
The doctor also listed some commonly occurring infections that a person can get or spread by ignoring hand hygiene:
- COVID 19: All of us are aware of the fact that one of the important reasons behind the spread of coronavirus is the ignorance of hand hygiene.
- Noroviruses: Norovirus is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis and it can affect people of all age groups. It is transmitted due to poor hand hygiene after using washrooms and it then spreads to healthy individuals.
- Respiratory infections: Respiratory illnesses are usually spread via droplets and when a person touches the droplets and forgets to wash hands – he/she can also develop the infection. Common respiratory illnesses caused by poor hand hygiene include the common cold, influenza, chickenpox and meningitis.
- Hepatitis A: Hepatitis A is a viral infection, which can cause severe symptoms, including problems with the liver, jaundice, abdominal pain, fever and fatigue. It spreads through fecal-oral route which is again due to poor hand hygiene.
And here’s the right way to wash your hands to avoid any infections:
- Remove rings and watches before you wash your hands.
- Wet your hands with clean, running water.
- Apply soap and scrub well for 20 seconds (or longer if the dirt sticks on).
- Rub hands together rapidly across all surfaces of your hands and wrists.
- Wash the back of your hands, your wrists, between your fingers and under your fingernails.
- Rinse well under running water and make sure all traces of soap are removed.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
The bottom line is, pandemic or not, personal hygiene is an important aspect to stay healthy. Visit your doctor if you develop any infection or have any health concerns.