National Handwashing Awareness Week

Children, in some circles, have the reputation for being sticky, messy, and/or really adept at spreading illnesses. Daycares and schools are breeding grounds for germs and sickness, and the immune systems of its occupants are still growing and learning to combat things like the common cold or even the flu. Dr. Will Sawyer (“Dr. Will”), a family physician and infection control specialist, recognized the spreading of germs as an opportunity for his companion, Henry the Hand.

Henry the Hand is the mascot developed to promote the 4 Principles of Hand Awareness, which were endorsed by the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Family Physicians in the early 2000s. Henry and his principles are bringing light to the importance of consistent and accurate hand washing during the United States’ National Handwashing Awareness Week in December (December 2-8, 2018).

4 Principles of Hand Awareness:

  1. Wash your hands when they are dirty and before eating

  2. Do not cough into hands

  3. Do not sneeze into hands

  4. Above all, do not put your fingers in your eyes, nose, or mouth

Dr. Will has been working on his mission to spread the word of handwashing awareness and its importance as a method to protect people from infectious disease and potential outbreaks for nearly two decades. He, along with Henry, is spreading the word that simply by washing hands properly and regularly there would never be a pandemic because the germs on our hands would stop growing and be unable to spread. The proper method of washing your hands is to wet your hands under the faucet, lather soap onto your hands and rub the entire surface for at least 20 seconds, rinse your hands, and dry them with a paper towel.

The small change of washing hands and doing it properly makes a very large impact. Dr. Will and Henry also encourage the acceptance of the other Principles. In fact, the duo defined their crusade as an intention to let everyone in the world know that the simplest solution to preventing primary infection is to never put your fingers in your eyes, nose, or mouth, which is the fourth of the Principles.

And, though the Principles remain constant, there are some additional tips to get through the holidays without an outbreak of infectious disease that Dr. Will and Henry like to share.

  1. Anytime you get back home from somewhere else, wash your hands. There is no way to know what you have come into contact with on the journey to the house, and it is best practice to wash hands thoroughly upon arrival. Your home should be a safe zone that is free of infectious diseases brought in from the outside.

  2. Do not touch the T-Zone – Eyes, nose, and mouth. Yes, this is one of the Principles, but it is so important it is reiterated for maintaining health during the holidays. The eyes, nose, and mouth are the germ’s portal into your body. Protect them by not touching them.

Hand hygiene is important every day of the year, not just during the holidays. Germs are resting on so many surfaces, and because we can’t see them we don’t think about them on a continuous basis. Just because they’re not top-of-mind, however, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Practice good hygiene by washing your hands properly, avoiding touching the T-Zone, and coughing and sneezing into your elbow rather than your hands. Also, work to keep your home a safe space from outside infectious disease germs by washing your hands the minute you walk through the door.

Henry the Hand has a website equipped with programs for schools, doctors’ offices, and businesses. The site also contains information useful to anyone in the form of articles and videos and can be accessed here.