How to Wash and Dry Your Hands to Prevent Coronavirus Infection

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This coronavirus pandemic has changed many things in our lives, from the way we wash and dry our hands to the form of greeting that we should adopt when we see our friends. In fact, people who don’t follow these hygiene rules are more likely to get infected or spread the virus. Nevertheless, whether or not you believe in this virus, you should respect other people and follow the coronavirus hygiene rules, such as wearing a mask at the supermarket or on public transportation. 

Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important things that you have to do to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. 

As you already know, the way we dry our hands is as important as washing them. So, if you want to prevent or reduce the spread of coronavirus, you should pay attention to this aspect as well. Of course, paper towels are preferable when it comes to using a public restroom, but what about air dryers? Should we still use them? 

“I’d say the best way to dry your hands is with a paper towel that you discard afterward,” said Sandra Kesh, a deputy medical director and infectious disease specialist at Westmed Medical Group in Westchester, New York.

The idea is to clean your hands properly so that you can kill and avoid passing viruses and germs on any surfaces that you touch, such as door knobs, phones, tables and so on. In some cases, hand sanitizers aren’t as effective, so you need to use soap and water, then dry your hands with paper towels. 

Air dryers blow moisture off your hands and will spread tiny microscopic particles of germs and viruses into the air – and if you are sick, you can pass the virus. Moreover, many people use air dryers, but disinfection can be done quite rarely, which is why you should avoid using them. 

“With paper towels, you are capturing the viral particles in a confined location and removing them from the physical environment and then discarding them safely, in a garbage receptacle,” Kesh said.

A recent study showed that surfaces touched by people using air dryers were more likely to be contaminated than those touched by people who used paper towels. You can also use paper towels to grab the door knob after using a public restroom, said Paul Pottinger, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

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“Otherwise, you might be immediately re-contaminating your hand when trying to get out of the lavatory,” he said.

The experts say that air dryers are a good choice if you look at the situation from an ecological perspective. “We need to be conscious of paper towels and waste management,” said Jagdish Khubchandani, an associate chair and professor of health science at Ball State University.

So, if you want to protect the environment and other people, you should dispose of paper towels properly so that sanitation workers won’t be exposed to the virus. 

“I appreciate all the research coming out, but this world needs a more holistic view of disease prevention than isolated tips and strategies where we only protect ourselves,” said Khubchandani. “We saw the case with gloves and masks; people are protected, but what about those who pick them from the streets [or bathrooms]?”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands; therefore, hands should be dried after washing. However, the best way to dry hands remains unclear because few studies about hand drying exist, and the results of these studies conflict. Additionally, most of these studies compare overall concentrations of microbes, not just disease-causing germs, on hands following different hand-drying methods. It has not been shown that removing microbes from hands is linked to better health.”

Regardless of the method used, you should always clean your hands. “Washing properly is the most important thing we can do to protect ourselves from accidentally contaminating ourselves when we touch our face,” Pottinger said. “When you look at washing versus drying, the way that we dry our hands is much less important, but there is still a better way and a less good way,” he added.

Germs and viruses can spread from other people or various surfaces when you touch your face, especially your nose, eyes and mouth without washing your hands, cook your meal with unwashed hands, touch a contaminated surface and then don’t wash your hands immediately, cough or sneeze into hands and then touch other items. 

The most important steps that you need to take are: wet your hands with running water and then apply some soap. Rub your hands together with the soap and scrub them for at least twenty seconds. Rinse your hands under running water and dry them with a paper towel – if you are in a public restroom, and a clean towel if you are at home. 

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However, if you can’t wash your hands with soap and running water, you should definitely use a hand sanitizer to disinfect them properly, especially before eating or touching your face. Try to choose an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol – check the product label to make sure it has. You should also keep in mind that hand sanitizers won’t kill all types of germs and aren’t as effective. 

“Hand sanitizers with too much alcohol can be drying to chapped skin,” UCLA Health said. “You can try a hand sanitizer with a moisturizing base, just know that it will not be as effective in killing viruses.”

Do not forget that washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and your family from various illnesses, such as the common flu, coronavirus, salmonella and other types of food poisoning. Plus, you should wash your hands for the amount of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice, namely around 20 seconds.

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