Health Q&A

Why washing your hands is a really big deal

May 5, 2017

Wash your hands. It sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But it’s not happening enough. And it has unbelievable consequences.

Not washing your hands causes infections to spread, which at best costs employers’ money, causes children to miss school and you to feel ill. On a much more serious note, lives are lost due to infections produced by the lack of handwashing.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports these numbers, strongly demonstrating why washing your hands is a really big deal:

  • 1 in 10 patients gets an infection while receiving care.
  • Up to 90% of care workers do not clean their hands in some facilities.
  • Infections cause up to 56% of deaths among hospital-born babies.

Incredibly, there are an estimated 1,500 bacteria per square centimetre of skin on your hand. So, it’s easy to see how infections, diseases and illnesses spread. These figures are scary, but the solution is so simple: Wash your hands.

1.8 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrhoeal diseases and pneumonia. In South Africa, 20% of deaths of children under five are caused by diarrhoeal diseases alone. But handwashing with soap could protect 1 out of every 3 young children who get sick with diarrhoea and almost 1 out of 5 young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia.

Handwashing really does work.

Spreading the message

Teaching people about handwashing helps them and their communities stay healthy. This is where World Hand Hygiene Day comes in. Set up by the World Health Organisation (WHO), it’s a day devoted to maintaining a global profile on the importance of handwashing. It also aims to bring people together in support of improving hand hygiene.

This year, the WHO were targeting health workers with the theme ‘Fight antibiotic resistance – it’s in your hands’. While good hand hygiene is vital for those who work in the medical field, it’s also an importance practice for the general public. World Hand Hygiene Day is open to anyone, so keep an eye on the WHO infection prevention and control page for tools, resources and ideas on how you can get involved in 2018.

When illness or infections strike

While washing your hands can drive down the risk of illnesses or infections, unfortunately, disease can still strike. Time off work can be unavoidable. This is where we at Topmed can step in. Whether you or your family are in a position where you need hospital care, prescribed minimum benefits, day-to-day cover or chronic illness cover, we have a number of options and specially tailored solutions to suit everyone.

We also offer healthcare solutions for businesses and professionals. Our medical scheme for companies gives varied cover for multiple employee bands, and gives professionals the right balance between appropriate cover and good value. There’s an overview of our options so you can easily pick the best cover you, your health and your lifestyle.