Adapted in English by Valérie Harnois

As part of a series of SCOOP! on COVID-19, today we address the importance of washing our hands. What is all the fuss surrounding hand-washing anyway? We hear everywhere that it is of the upmost importance to wash our hands, and particularly with the pandemic of COVID-19. Do you think you can fall ill by shaking someone’s hand or by touching a door handle? Do you know how to wash your hand efficiently? And how often? SCOOP! has the answers for you.

👀 The Context

Are your hands as clean as you think they are?

Since you were a child, people have told you, over and over again, to wash your hands: before eating, after going to the bathroom, before holding a baby, after sneezing, after blowing your nose, after taking public transit… Indeed, many day-to-day actions require a thorough hand-wash either before or after, and sometimes both!

Even if your hands seem clean, they pick up germs from every surface you touch, and you don’t even know about it. During the present pandemic, you are more susceptible to enter in contact with micro-droplets (very small drops) filled with germs that were sprayed on surfaces by contaminated people who sneezed or coughed. 

The physical distancing measure (i.e., keep a minimum of 2 metres between people) put in place by the government help prevent the direct spread of droplets from one person to another. It helps reduce your contact with germs in order to slow down the propagation of COVID-19 among people, which is a highly contagious. 

In the current situation, you must avoid shaking other people’s hands at all costs. You must also avoid touching your face. Touching and handling food and other objects also expose you to virus and bacteria. This is why you have learned early in life to wash your hands. Because a good hand-wash will get rid of most germs and will decrease the chances of contamination and propagation of virus and bacteria!

Wash your hands efficiently.

What is, exactly, an efficient hand-wash? 

Here it is in four easy steps:  

  1. Wet your hands and your wrists.
  2. Add soap and rub your hands, your fingers, between your fingers, your thumb, your nails, and your wrists for twenty seconds. It is enough time to sign the alphabet song or “Happy birthday”. 
  3. Rinse your hands and wrists under running water.
  4. Wipe the excess water with a clean towel.

The story behind the hand-washing habit.

Did you know that hand-washing, as a sanitary measure, did not exist before 1847? Now, physicians have the obligation to wash their hands in hospitals, but this obligation is less than 200 years old! The discovery of the benefits linked with hand washing happened under strange circumstances. While many births resulted in the death of the mother, Dr Semmelweis came to a realization that would change hygiene practices forever. Physicians in the hospital where he worked used to do autopsies and assist women in childbirth all in the same day, and without washing their hands in between. It was therefore the physicians themselves that would infect women, with their hands contaminated by the bodies they had previously examined. The month following the implementation of a mandatory hand-washing policy, the percentage of women dying following childbirth went from 30% to 0.23%! 

You too can save lives! Just like physicians wash your hands regularly and you will reduce the spread of COVID-19, which is particularly dangerous for elderly people and people at risk. We count on you!

☝️ Quiz time!

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