You should wash your hands for 20 seconds, the equivalent of singing the Happy Birthdaysong twice, experts claim. The U.K. Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) is encouraging people to take extra care when it comes to handwashing, in order to make sure they are clean of the bacteria which can cause infections such as upset stomachs or pneumonia, or viruses which can cause colds and flu. Handwashing is especially important in light of the rise in antibiotic resistance, a threat to public health.
“Even when we remain unaffected by the bugs we carry, if we don’t wash our hands we can transmit infections which then become a real problem for those who are more vulnerable, such as children and the elderly, who may then need to be prescribed antibiotics,” said RPS president Professor Ash Soni. “We can never know what we are carrying or what impact it may have on those around us, which is why good handwashing is so important.”
The RPS warning comes as researchers at the organisation conducted a survey into handwashing, and found that 84 per cent of British adults don’t wash their hands for long enough. In addition, the poll results also found that 65 per cent of people don’t always wash their hands before eating, 32 per cent don’t always wash their hands before preparing food and 21 per cent don’t always wash their hands after going to the toilet.
“It’s easy to pick up an infection and once ill, people often visit their GP to request antibiotics because they think they are not getting better quickly enough when common infections can last longer than you might think. Your local pharmacist can advise you about the natural course of your infection and the best way to manage it,” added Professor Soni.
To effectively clean hands, experts suggest first wetting them with warm or cold water, applying enough soap to cover, and rubbing hands palm to palm. Then, rub the back of the left hand with the right palm with interlaced fingers, and repeat with the other hand. Proceed to rub the backs of your fingers against your palms with fingers interlocked, rub the tips of the fingers on the palm in a circular motion before rinsing off and thoroughly drying.