Wash hands, stay safe

Is your food safe to eat?

In honor of Food Safety Month, a very important but often overlooked factor for keeping your food safe to eat is hand washing. This relatively short (20 seconds) procedure can prevent and minimize many illnesses and deaths.

Although we were told and probably have told others to wash our hands, do we really understand why and how we should wash our hands? As people go through their busy life, the importance of washing one’s hands for the recommended 20 seconds slowly gets lower on our priority list. The following is a little history and reminder why hand washing is very important in our everyday lives.

History. In 1847, A Hungarian obstetrician named Ignaz P. Semmelweiss showed that hand washing greatly reduced infections in newborns. Dr. Semmelweiss attempted to promote hand washing and cleanliness among his colleagues. When Dr. Semmelweiss implemented his hand wash and cleanliness procedures, newborn infections drastically decreased and survival rates increased. However, his wife and peers thought he was a heretic and eventually committed him to an insane asylum. Over the past 148 years, times have changed, however, Dr. Semmelweiss’s hand wash procedure is as follows:

1. Wet your hands with clean, tepid running water (cold tap water in Hawaii is OK), turn off the faucet, and apply soap.

2. Lather your soaped hands by vigorously rubbing them together for at least 20 seconds. Be sure to lather the back of your hands between your fingers, and try to get under your nails. How long is 20 seconds? Hum or sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice from beginning to end.

3. Rinse your hands under running water.

4. Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer.

This procedure has not changed and is now a known fact that proper hand washing greatly reduces illnesses.

Surveys have shown 95 percent of people claim to practice proper hand washing.

However, studies have shown 67 percent of people practice any type of hand washing. Researchers believe that this number is low because while most people have an idea that hand washing is important, many people do not know the facts and intricacies of this important task.

Hopefully, we all will take a few minutes a day from our busy lives to wash our hands and live a healthier life.

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