Things I Have Learned Part 1: Facts on Handwashing

Patient education is a top priority at High Point Regional Health System.  They believe that a well-informed patient is a patient who… uh… has more information than one who is not.  Well-informed I mean.

Toward that end, they supply a patient with all kinds of informative pamphlets and booklets.  One, produced right there at the hospital, contains handy information not only for us open heart surgery patients, but for anyone who would like to know more about washing his or her hands: when to wash, why to wash, how to wash, and what well-known birthday song to sing while washing.

This popular little pamphlet, which has the catchy title “Facts on Handwashing,” first tackles the question, “Why Should You Wash Your Hands?”

In this informative section, we learn that “Germs are so small you cannot see them.”  Which, of course, sheds light on the age-old mystery of why we cannot see germs.  They are, it turns out, too small!

“A few of them,”  the text continues, “can cause illnesses like diarrhea, colds and other more serious, even life-threatening diseases.  If you wash your hands correctly, you will greatly reduce the chances of spreading germs.  Disease-causing germs can enter your body when your unwashed hands touch your nose, mouth and open wounds.”

Well, how about that!

The brochure points out that health care professionals have a responsibility to wash their hands (if they’re very dirty) but “it is important that everyone make handwashing a personal priority.”

But at this point, most people are probably wondering when they should wash their hands.  They cover this too.  You should wash your hands “Before you… visit with family member/friend in the hospital room (they don’t mention whether you should wash hands if the person you’re visiting is not a family member, or, really, a friend, but rather just a casual acquaintance),  prepare to eat food, treat a cut or wound, tend to someone who is sick, insert or remove contact lenses.”

But there are times you should wash hands after doing something… like, “visit with family member/friend in the hospital room, go to the bathroom, handle uncooked foods, change a diaper, blow your nose, cough or sneeze, handle garbage, tend to someone who is sick or injured, or handle an animal or animal waste.”

Using this pamphlet as a guide, and to promote efficiency, I’m learning to multi-task so I don’t have to wash my hands quite as many times during the course of a day.  So I try to handle uncooked foods, sneeze and handle animal waste all at the same time, so I can wash my hands only once.

By the way, the well-known birthday song that should be sung while washing hands is “Happy Birthday.”  This is because you should rub your hands together while washing for about 10 to 15 seconds, or, “about the time it takes to sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song.”  I have read other publications which claim Happy Birthday time to be closer to 30 seconds.  Further research will have to be done.

One of the best parts about this lovely pamphlet is the illustration on the front panel… which, when I glanced at it without my glasses, looked like someone was washing his hands with the output of a sausage grinder.

Happy Birthday to you... Happy Birthday to you...

The only problem I can see with this pamphlet is that those adults who are still unaware of how to wash their hands and why it’s important to do so, probably won’t be able to read it anyway.  And they’ll remain among the great unwashed.  Get it?   Great unwashed?  Heh heh….

Anyway, tomorrow, we’ll look at “Eating for a Healthier Heart.”  Great tips!  Color illustrations!


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