While we at London Doctors Clinic usually focus on disease diagnosis and management, the most effective way to manage disease is to prevent it from developing in the first place! In some cases, such as autoimmune conditions, this is impossible. However, in the case of infectious conditions, such as the common cold and the flu, and the current Covid-19 outbreak, good hand washing hygiene can prevent infection and also reduce the spread.

Do I Really Need To Wash My Hands?

There is no doubt about it – hand washing saves lives. Public campaigns and raising awareness in recent years have shown us the importance of clean and sanitised hands for healthcare staff and visitors in hospitals, hospices and nursing homes, but did you know that the simple act of regularly washing your hands is one of the best ways to prevent you and your family from getting ill? And it is so easy to do, but much harder to remember sometimes.


Reasons For Hand Washing: 

Cleaning your hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs from one person to another. Many common diseases, such as cold and flu, are mostly spread through germ-covered hands touching surfaces or other people.

Although the flu isn’t such a problem if you’re young and healthy, if you’re older or have a weakened immune system, or are very young, the flu can be a much more serious illness. 

Other illnesses that are commonly spread through poor hand hygiene (the practice of washing your hands and keeping them clean) include things like parasitic bowel infections, hand foot and mouth disease, and Hepatitis A.


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Contamination of Hands & Objects

As you touch people, surfaces and objects throughout the day, you accumulate germs on your hands, and even though you can’t see them, they are lurking there. You can help yourself and other people stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially at times when you are more likely to spread these germs to other people.


When Should You Wash Your Hands?

Keeping the idea of contamination in mind, you should try to get into the habit of washing your hands at moments like these:

  • When you are preparing food, especially raw meat or fish
  • Before eating food
  • After touching pets, soil or rubbish
  • Before and after dressing a wound or caring for a sick person
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After coming into contact with faeces (poo) – after using the toilet, changing a baby’s nappy, or helping a child who has used the toilet


In addition to the above list, you should also aim to wash your hands with soap and water whenever they actually look soiled. 

And don’t forget hand sanitiser too – this is a potent but gentle germ killer that you can rub into your skin between hand washes, or if you don’t have access to warm water and soap. It’s a great idea to keep one in your car, handbag or pocket, so you always have access to it.


How To Wash Your Hands

Washing hands with warm running water and soap (particularly anti-bacterial soap) is the best way to kill germs in most situations. Bad habits include not using soap, or not allowing sufficient time to wash the hands properly. If you are unsure, follow the five steps below to wash your hands the correct way every time.

  1. Wet your hands thoroughly with warm running water and apply enough soap to lather both hands fully
  2. Rub your hands together briskly, to create a lather. Remember to create a lather up as far as your wrists, and on the back of your hands too
  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds (this is where a lot of us go wrong)
  4. Rinse your hands well under warm running water, removing all the soap (and with it, all the germs!)
  5. Dry your hands using a clean towel. Take caution on this point – towels, if not regularly changed, can be hotbeds of germ activity. It is probably more hygienic to air dry them, use a hand-dryer, or a piece of clean paper towel


So there you have it - no more excuses for poor hand hygiene! Fingers crossed, if you follow the above instructions going forwards, you'll be less likely to catch those potentially avoidably infections! And, if you do pick up an infection, you know where we are! With 18 GP surgeries across London, Manchester and Birmingham, we'll never be too far away when you are in search of a "GP near me". Simply call or book a private GP online.


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