One Thing to Keep from the Pandemic: Handwashing

While we all want all of the restrictions of COVID-19 to be just a distant memory, so people have talked about things they hoped would stick around in healthy times. How great would it be if people didn’t crowd you in lines? Masks are excellent when you don’t want to force a smile or for women who don’t want to wear make-up. And the variety of ways businesses allow us to pay for things without cash can be helpful. One thing that can and should stick around is handwashing.

At the beginning of the pandemic, people were suffering from chapped hands from washing so frequently. Stores were running out of soap constantly. It has long been known that handwashing can prevent the spread of illness, so it is an excellent preventative measure. COVID-19 spread predominantly through breathing in the virus, not from touching contaminated surfaces. In this situation, while washing your hands is always a healthy move, it most likely didn’t do much to prevent infections from COVID-19. Only five out of 10,000 cases of COVID-19 cases were caused by touching a contaminated surface. But, what it did do, was protect you from other illnesses that may have made you more susceptible because of a weakened immune system.

The fact of the matter is, most of us, before the pandemic, didn’t wash our hands as frequently as we should. While people might have gone a bit overboard with how frequently they washed their hands in the early days of the pandemic, washing your hands often is good for your health. In general, washing your hands before cooking or eating, after going to the bathroom, after touching “high-use” surfaces or when you come into your home. You should also wash your hands if you have to treat a wound, take care of someone who is ill, touch an animal or take out the garbage.

In 2020, people on average doubled the amount of hand washing. That’s great! But, fewer and fewer people are washing their hands now. And, when people do wash their hands, they’re being more slapdash about it. You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water. Hand sanitizer is good if you can’t access soap and water, although soap and water are best.

We’re in cold and flu season. Handwashing can reduce the number of illnesses like those by 16-21 percent. It also reduces cases of diarrhea by up to 40 percent. We want everyone to stay healthy this fall and winter. While handwashing might not be the way to prevent COVID-19, it can prevent other serious illnesses that can have you feeling miserable. We’re all ready to move on from the pandemic, but let’s bring handwashing with us into the future!

Banner image: Sean Horsburgh via Unsplash

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