Doc, am I washing my hands correctly to stop Covid-19?
That’s a very good question, I’m glad you asked.
You may not know this, but I consider myself to be quite an expert at hand washing.
Firstly, let me establish my hand washing credentials by relating an interesting anecdote.
I recall when my children were younger, one of them, my daughter Simone I think, had a school assignment where she was instructed to survey our household. I believe it was some environmental project with the lofty aim of trying to conserve water. She asked each family member how many times during the day they washed their hands, how long they showered, flushed the toilet, etc.
Anyway, on one day, my hand wash tally came up to sixty seven!
I think the school teacher must have thought I was either greatly exaggerating or had OCD. (Not to mention some form of bowel dysfunction – but that’s another story lol)
Okay Doc (eyeroll), settle down, can we get back to hand washing?
Sorry about that. Well, I’m sure everyone has seen the online videos demonstrating how to wash your hands. If not, do so now, as they are very informative, and please come back here when you’ve finished.
Back? Okay, I’m just going to focus on the common mistakes people make and how to improve your hand-washing technique.
Now, the tricky bit is to know what is DIRTY and what is CLEAN.
How do we know what is dirty, Doc?
Well, the technique I use when training new Dental Assistants is to imagine an explosion of RED PAINT (a sneeze) has occurred in the room that you are in. Now all the surfaces touched by the RED PAINT are dirty.
But Doc, that’s almost everything.
Yes, precisely, everything.
Don’t take it personally, we are all dirty.
You can touch dirty stuff BEFORE you wash your hands but not AFTER.
You don’t want to get the red paint (germs) in your mouth or nose or eyes. You won’t catch the disease by just touching a contaminated surface (unless you have an open wound). You catch the disease by bringing the bug into a convenient entry point on your body, ie., mouth, nose and eyes.
Now. It’s OK to touch the dirty tap, dirty soap, dirty door knob, dirty light switch, dirty clothing, etc., BEFORE but not AFTER you hand wash.
It’s still OK to touch these surfaces after but you must realise your hands will become dirty again and you must not touch your face unless you once again wash your hands.
Remember to remove any jewellery and clean the skin under where rings were before you clean and replace the jewellery. It’s also a good idea to keep your nails short and neatly trimmed.
Remember to dry your hands with a single use paper towel and use the paper towel or your elbow to turn off the tap AFTER you have dried you hands. Also use the paper towel to open the bin and/or turn the door knob on your way out.
Don’t use a towel hanging off a rail – remember the red paint – nor dry you hands on your pants (I’m talking to you, adolescent boy child). A towel in a clean cupboard can be used if you can get to it without contaminating yourself but it can only be used once.
Why only once, Doc?
Well, part of the hand washing regime is the physical removal of the remaining germ particles by wiping on the towel, so there may be remnants of virus left on the towel, and you may risk transferring these remnants back to your hands next time you dry them.
Is my face dirty?
Tony Di Salvo
P.S. Try not to think of the wasted water running down the drain as you dry your hands ( Sorry Simone ).