Initiated in 2005 by the World Health Organization (WHO), World Hand Hygiene Day is celebrated every year on 5 May as part of a major global intervention to improve hand hygiene. The initiative was specifically designed to raise awareness of the critical role hand hygiene plays in the prevention of infection and of sepsis, particularly in healthcare.
Studies show that sixty-percent of South Africans do not wash their hands properly after using the toilet and sixty-six percent of South Africans do not wash their hands with soap. Furthermore seventy-five-percent of illnesses in homes can be prevented by using hygiene products and maintaining good hygiene habits such as hand-washing.
A five-second splash under water may make hands appear cleaner and remove any visible dirt, however, it is not very effective in getting rid of the harmful germs that can cause infection, especially at critical moments – after using the toilet, after cleaning a child and before handling food.
Globally, infections are becoming increasingly resistant to antibiotics, posing a major threat to people as the antibiotics used to treat them become less effective. This has resulted in longer hospital stays, higher medical costs and increased mortality.
A 2005-2007 South African study found that the following infections can be prevented through good hygiene habits:
- 80% of gastrointestinal infections (including vomiting and diarrhoea)
- 70% of respiratory infections (including colds, flu and ear infections)
- 70% of skin infections (abscesses, boils, eczema, impetigo, ringworm, scabies and pink eye)
Wash Your Hands Often to Stay Healthy
You can help yourself and others stay healthy by washing your hands often, especially during these key times when you are likely to get and spread germs:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After touching garbage.