This week is National Handwashing Awareness Week (December 5-11) and National Influenza Vaccination Week (December 5-9). Both handwashing and vaccinations play key roles when protecting against preventable illnesses.
National Handwashing Awareness Week
Washing hands is a staple of good hygiene and doing so can prevent germs from entering the body. To properly wash hands, it must be done with soap and water and last for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing between fingers and under nails. Afterward, it is important to dry your hands.
There are four principles of hand awareness that are endorsed by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians. These principles are:
- Your hands should be washed when dirty and before consuming food.
- Avoid coughing into your hands.
- Do not sneeze into your hands.
- Your fingers should never be put into your eyes, nose, or mouth.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) claim that handwashing prevents 1 in 3 diarrhea-related illnesses and 1 in 5 infections, including the flu. This is important because approximately 1.4 million children worldwide under the age of 5 die from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia. Unfortunately, reports show that only 65% of women and 31% of men wash their hands after utilizing a public restroom.
National Influenza Vaccination Week
While flu season has already begun, vaccinations are still readily available. The goal of National Influenza Week is to promote education and awareness surrounding the flu vaccination. The vaccine is recommended for individuals 6 months of age and older. The elderly and young children are particularly at risk for flu complications, leading to millions of sick children a year with thousands requiring hospitalization.
Flu viruses are perpetually changing and evolving, which is why the flu vaccine’s effectiveness decreases over time. Experts recommend yearly flu vaccination to reduce the risk of illness, hospitalization, and death.
As winter draws closer and people begin to spend more time indoors, it is important to keep healthy hygiene practices and protect against preventable illnesses.