Wed | Sep 26, 2018

Clean hands, safer food ... healthier body

Published:Wednesday | October 8, 2014 | 12:00 AM
A new study by Michigan State University researchers found that only five per cent of people who used the bathroom washed their hands long enough to kill the germs that can cause infections.

Growing up in the country, there was always a challenge with running water, but granny always had buckets of water in the bathroom, kitchen and in a line at the back door. A small, wide-mouth basin and jug for 'dipping up' was always on the cover of the bucket with a soap dish with a collage of 'soap gut' - the remainder of soap already used ... too small for the rag and yet too big to throw away.

Hand washing and overall good personal hygiene was always important to us. Now what is happening ... less emphasis on hand washing and increased use of hand sanitizers with different flavours and scents.

Why is hand washing important?

Hands should be washed with soap and clean water to:

Remove bacteria, germs from the hands, fingers, under the nails, and arms.

Prevent or lower the chances of getting diseases spread by bodily fluids (Ebola, gastroenteritis/running belly/GE).

Prevent cross contamination/transfer of germs from one item to another. For example, from the skin after scratching to uncooked or undercooked food.

Boost the immune system, so we get sick less often and, if we get sick, it will not be as bad.

The hands are one of most used external body parts and is the means by which harmful microorganisms (bacteria, viruses, fungi) enter the body. These microrganisms can cause health problems and even death.

Some of the health problems caused when hands are not washed properly include diarrhea, vomiting and belly pain that can result in poor nutrition and eventually death.

When to wash hands?

Hands should be washed with soap and clean water:

Before, after and during food preparation.

Before and after using the bathroom.

After touching clothes, hair, picking nose or any part of the body when preparing food or drinks.

Before and after changing baby's diapers, breastfeeding or preparing formula in cup or bottle. Wash hands before touching nipple on the bottle (pinching the nipple when shaking to prevent spilling when mixing) and after.

Before touching food and after shaking hands or touching someone else.

Before and after eating or drinking.

How to wash properly wash hands:

Turn tap (pipe) on and wet hands and arms. Turn tap off ... conserve on water!

Apply soap and rub soap in hands and on arms, make a rich lather (lots of bubbles).

Rub hands, between fingers, under nails and arms.

Turn on tap and rinse hands and arms.

Pour water over pipe handle and turn off.

Dry hands with clean towel or paper towel if available if not allow to air dry. DO NOT wipe hands on clothes!

Hand sanitizers should NOT replace handwashing. Wash hands as often as possible, then reapply sanitizer.

Washing hands with soap and clean water can save your life and the live of someone else. Just wash your hands!

Marsha N. Woolery, RD, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist at Fairview Medical and Dental Center, Montego Bay, and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email: