Mom Knew All Along
You know what Mom always said:
“Wash your hands!”
Most of us grew up on that phrase. Before meals and after using the restroom Mom (or grandmother or aunt or mom’s friend or the lady in the cafeteria at school) would always admonish us to wash our hands. And it was always a bother, particularly when we were kids. That whole hand-washing thing just took soooo long…ate into our playtime. Who wanted that?
But here we are in 2020 facing the COVID-19 pandemic; the world seems to be a more harsh environment now that some of the parents and grandparents who raised us are living in long-term care communities on lock-down, and we’re seeing in the news how many new cases of COVID-19 are appearing there. It’s rather ironic that the wisdom offered by medical professionals from the very beginning of this thing was what moms have been preaching since the model first came out: wash your hands! People all across society have been engaging with soap and water or some form of hand sanitizer so frequently that it seems like we could be in danger of washing away our very fingerprints. And I figure it’s a pretty good guess that there’s about to be a boom in the hand lotion business brought on by battle-weary hand washing warriors seeking dry skin relief. So, seriously, is this whole hand hygiene thing really that big of a deal? I believe it is.
God Himself indicated what a big deal it was as far back as the Old Testament. In Exodus 30:21 (NIV), God instructs Moses that the priests “shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die.” Looks like these hand cleaning recommendations have been around for a pretty long time.
By the mid-1850s, we apparently needed a refresher course in the importance of hand hygiene. Although she was never a “mom” herself, Florence Nightingale—known as “The Lady with the Lamp” to thousands of soldiers during the Crimean War—had plenty of opportunities to instruct folks to wash their hands. Nightingale was instrumental in implementing hand washing and sanitizing procedures that significantly reduced the mortality rate at the British base hospital in Constantinople. When the war was over, statistics showed that 16,000 of the 18,000 deaths at the base hospital had been caused by preventable diseases rather than battle-related injuries[i]. The tide turned when proper hygiene measures were put in place at Nightingale’s direction.
Jump forward to today and regard the Centers for Disease Control’s recommendation that hand hygiene should be a topic of conversation between health care professionals and their patients[ii]. Ask those providing medical care to you and/or your loved ones to review proper hand washing techniques because just rinsing with water like we’d sometimes do when were kids won’t cut it—all that amounts to is a “spa day” for the germs on your hands; the germs will only settle in and eagerly await the massage that’s coming when you dry your damp skin.
The CDC recommendations for the proper hand washing techniques are as follows:
Follow these five steps every time:
Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, 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. Need a timer? 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 air dry them [iii].
For your own health—for everybody’s health—you need to…well, you remember what Mom said.