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Home News Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to stay healthy

Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to stay healthy

May 4, 2023 - Public Health - Awareness

SANTA FE – It is easy, inexpensive and has stood the test of time to be one of the most effective ways to avoid getting sick and can even add years to our lives: washing our hands.  

Tomorrow, Friday, May 5, is World Hand Hygiene Day, a global public health day to help keep everyone aware about the health benefits of washing your hands. Whether at home, work, school or health care setting, washing hands makes a difference in protecting you and those around you from getting sick.  

“It sounds like a no-brainer, but there was a time where ‘wash your hands’ was once controversial medical advice,” said New Mexico Department of Health Secretary Patrick M. Allen. “Today, there’s years and years of proof that it not only prevents illness but can save lives.” 

History points to two people essential to everyone’s understanding of the importance of washing our hands: Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor in the 1840s, discovered both medical staff and patients were less likely to get sick or die from illnesses caused by cross-contamination of germs after they started routinely washing their hands.  

A few years later, nurse Florence Nightingale became another pioneer of handwashing, after seeing soldiers treated for battlefield injuries in the hospital where she worked were more likely to die from infectious diseases than their war wounds. Her discovery went on to lead to both handwashing by staff combined with improved sanitary conditions at her hospital that became the standard for hospitals everywhere.  

It’s recommended that when you wash your hands to follow these five steps: 

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold) and apply soap. 
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails. 
  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. That’s about equal to the time it takes to hum the “Happy birthday” song from beginning to end twice. 
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water. 
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or an air dryer. 

 When soap and running water are not available, a hand sanitizer, with at least 60% of alcohol, can also help to reduce illness and the spread of germs. Hand sanitizers are not a replacement for washing your hands with soap and water, as harmful metals and chemicals can remain on the hands after using alcohol-based sanitizers. You can read more about when and how to wash your hands here

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La higiene de manos es una de las formas más sencillas de mantenerse sano