14/10/2015 - Permalink

Global Handwashing Day – stop the spread of bugs

Related topics: Community / Health

News from our partners Public Health England (PHE)

Global Handwashing Day 2015 is tomorrow (Thursday 15 October), and people across the West Midlands region are being reminded of the importance of hand hygiene in stopping the spread of bugs. In particular, with the cold weather approaching, we’re urging families to make sure that hands are washed thoroughly after coughing, sneezing and using handkerchiefs and tissues (respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette).

At this time of year there is an increase in bugs spread easily from person-to-person, including viruses that cause stomach upsets, and respiratory viruses that cause illnesses including colds and flu. However, following some simple hygiene rules can help to limit the spread of these bugs and the number of people getting ill as a result. Good hand hygiene tips include:

  • regular, thorough handwashing – use soap and warm water, rubbing front and back of hands and between fingers, rinse carefully with water and then dry hands thoroughly. Washing your hands properly should take at least 15 seconds – or about the length of time it takes to sing “Happy birthday to you” twice through
  • handwashing is especially important after going to the toilet and before touching any food
  • children need to be encouraged to wash their hands by being shown how to do it properly, and having a good example set for them by adults
  • if you have a cold, use tissues to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, then throw used tissues away as soon as possible and wash your hands
  • try not to cough and sneeze directly into your hands, and wash them immediately if this is unavoidable.

Dr Bharat Sibal, PHE West Midlands Health Protection Team consultant in communicable diseases, said:

“We know that by washing hands with soap and water it can reduce the risk of diarrhoeal illness by nearly 50 per cent, so a few simple measures can stop people becoming quite unwell. Within schools, respiratory and gastrointestinal infections are a major cause of illness and can mean an increase in absenteeism rates, so educating children about good hand and respiratory hygiene is really important.

“Bugs can also be spread indirectly, by touching hard surfaces like door handles, desks and telephones – so these ‘touch points’ should be cleaned regularly to get rid of germs. It is important to remember that, like your hands, you need to dry surfaces thoroughly as well as cleaning them, in order to prevent bugs from multiplying.

“Because handwashing is one of our best defences against illness, it is also vital in helping to slow antimicrobial resistance (AMR). AMR is a worldwide public health problem that requires global action, and PHE is involved in many areas of work as part of the UK response to tackling resistance. One of the key areas we need to address is reducing the amount of antibiotics we take – so by taking steps to ensure we are protecting our health as much as possible, such as effective handwashing, we are reducing the likelihood of becoming ill and going to the doctor for antibiotics.

As part of the work being done to slow resistance, PHE is promoting the Antibiotic Guardian campaign – aimed at both health professionals and the public, including pet owners and veterinary professionals. This campaign encourages people to make a pledge about how they can personally help to reduce antibiotic resistance. This includes taking the full course of prescribed antibiotics for an appropriate illness, and not asking your GP for antibiotics to treat something like a cold or flu which, being viruses, are not treatable with antibiotics.

Check twitter for #GlobalHandwashingDay and #AntibioticGuardian.