National Handwashing Awareness Week in December

Every year, in the first week of December, National Handwashing Awareness Week is observed just as cold and flu season is reaching full swing.
Started by Dr. Will Sawyer, an infection prevention specialist, National Handwashing Awareness Week is the only program of its kind—making the public more aware of the role our hands play in spreading various diseases, including the flu, common cold, pink eye, pneumonia and strep throat.
Along with his cartoon sidekick, Henry the Hand, Dr. Sawyer has spent the past 20 years on a personal mission to educate the public about the importance of handwashing to protect their overall health. His program teaches the “Four Principles for Hand Awareness” and has been endorsed by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians. The four principles are:
1. Wash your hands when they are dirty and before eating.
2. Do not cough into your hands.
3. Do not sneeze into your hands.
4. Do not put your fingers into your eyes, nose or mouth.
The fourth principle addresses the most common method for contamination and inoculation, causing a person to become ill. Dr. Sawyer believes that increasing the public’s awareness of this single behavior would help prevent a pandemic and potentially eradicate Hepatitis A, MRSA (contagious staph bacteria), the flu, strep throat, E. coli, as well as other readily preventable infectious diseases.
While hand sanitizers are convenient, they are not meant to replace proper soap-and-water washing, especially after using the bathroom, changing a diaper and before eating or doing food prep. Instead, experts agree that hand sanitizer should be used as a supplement to soap-and-water washing and used in instances when soap and water are not available.
So, what is “proper” washing and hand sanitizer use? Proper handwashing involves 20 to 30 seconds of vigorous scrubbing with soap and warm water. While soap is important, do not diminish the amount of work accomplished by scrubbing. Handwashing should be followed by drying hands with a clean towel. To use hand sanitizers properly, use one or more squirts or pumps, then rub hands together briskly, front and back, between fingers, around and under the nails, until hands are dry.
Be sure to utilize these tips and keep you and your household healthy this winter!

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