The P.A.

A weekly address from Patrick Adams,
President of St. Louis Community Credit Union

Washing Your Hands Is a Big Deal

On April 25th, 2016, posted in: Uncategorized by

washing_handsWashing your hands is a big deal. I’m pretty sure that I wash my hands just under the limit to qualify me as obsessive-compulsive – that’s to say I wash my hands a lot. It takes the germs of the day off of your skin. Clean hands and fingers greatly reduce the likelihood of those little, nasty organisms of filth sticking to our God-given appendages and ultimately making their way into the exercise of rubbing one’s eyes, or entering the mouth when the need exists to wipe off one’s lips or to do some landscaping on a nagging hangnail. As mom would say, “wash your hands!” She’d follow with “get those nasty hands out of your mouth!”

A few years back (the exact time escapes me), word on the street was to sing “Happy Birthday” while washing your meat hooks in order to ensure proper cleanliness. Apparently, someone somewhere determined that the time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” was the exact time needed to ensure the cleanest of hands.

I stopped this practice after accidentally using my outside voice during a good handwashing at a truck stop in Effingham, Illinois. I escaped that day without incident, however I feel quite certain that I am the subject of a story being told in burly, beer-drinking, tough guy gatherings throughout the country – “Hey, remember the tall guy in Effingham that was washing his hands?” Guilty as charged.

Now, in a major coup, the World Health Organization (WHO) discovered that handwashing should be a six-step process. This has sent the U.S. Centers for Disease Control reeling over the abandonment of their previously thought to be an effective three-step process. WOW! Their throw-down is ongoing, leaving many an epidemiologist baffled by such divisive discourse.

In addition to just a good old-fashioned handwashing, the words used in the WHO’s descriptors to successfully clean hands includes interlacing fingers, rubbing thumb creases, focusing on backs of fingers and pressing fingertips into palms. One professor of infection prevention referred to this thorough and extensive handwash as “quite a complex maneuver.” Further, he described it as a “ballet dance.” (Note: professors may lead boring lives).

The six-steps, on average, take about 42.5 seconds to complete. That’s 23.3 seconds longer than my slow version of “Happy Birthday.” By rough calculation, that means that in the future I’ll be washing my hands twice as long as I have for the first 59 years of my life. I timed it… 42.5 seconds is an eternity… especially in a busy truck-stop.

I only have one thing to say – “Happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you, happy birthday dear (pick someone you love here), happy birthday to you.” Just be sure to sing it in your quiet voice.

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