A recent 2020 Philippines Handwashing Habits Survey revealed that 99% of Filipinos washed their hands more in the last 6 months, but only 50% do the proper steps for a safe wash. Despite numerous campaigns from health authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Department of Health (DOH), some Filipinos continue to fall into the pits of the ‘puwede na‘ attitude even when it comes to handwashing.
The study identified that “washing quickly with soap and water” is the commonly observed practice among other people, and that 50% are guilty of unsafe handwashing habits like washing without soap, washing for less than 20 seconds, or even just using tissue.
In the health guidelines released by the DOH, safe handwashing is regarded as the first line of defense to prevent the spread of germs and viruses. #SafeWash includes the use of soap and running water and hand scrubbing with an adequate period of at least 20 seconds.
While these public health advisories remain to be rampant, the survey has uncovered that Filipinos’ bad hand hygiene habits die hard. These incidents of unsafe handwashing are said to be commonly observed at home with 40% of the respondents having at least seen someone they know practice improper handwashing.
Common handwashing mistakes
The real problem with unsafe handwashing is that this habit is deep-rooted in every Filipino. At one point everyone is guilty of committing these poor practices: the quick washing of hands, spraying a small amount of water to the hands, mere wiping or rubbing of hands, and the use of tissue paper to clean hands.
Several researches have shown that handwashing habit is inherent in nature. It develops in the early life stages and becomes a habitual behavior as one ages, and this poses the risk that when one grows up with poor hand hygiene habits, it can be ingrained for a lifetime without realizing it.
Cross-contamination is the main consequence when people do not exercise a safe wash. Respiratory illnesses like the common cold and influenza and nosocomial infections like E.coli and MRSA are caused by the spreading of germs and bacteria on the hands.
This lack of knowledge on safe wash practices was validated in the survey with an alarming number of less than 5% of the respondents who do not realize the key times when to wash hands. This includes — before eating, after coming from outside the house, after using the toilet, after eating, and after shaking someone’s hands, as only the first two key times were regarded as important by the respondents.
Promoting proper safe wash habits
The Department of Health (DOH) launched in August its nationwide information campaign with easy-to-remember BIDA Solusyon guidelines that urge Filipinos to partake in behavioral changes to reduce the transmission of the virus. The guidelines include wearing masks, hand sanitation, social distancing, and obtaining correct information about the pandemic.
In its communications, the DOH highlights the importance of safe handwashing habits outlining the following steps: First, wet hands with clean, running water and apply soap. Lather the hands and rub them together with soap by cleaning thoroughly from the back of the hands, the palm, between the fingers, under the nails. Scrub the hands for at least 20 seconds and not less. Then rinse the hands under clean and running water and finally dry the hands using a clean towel.
This adequate habit of a safe wash is proven to destroy the structure of the virus, thus, greatly minimizing the chances of contracting and transmitting the virus.
Safe handwashing, along with the wearing of mask and practice of social distancing, is the first line of defense against germs and viruses. Today, the duty lies in the hands of every Filipino to teach and learn the value of a safe wash that starts at home, and not fall into the traps of the ‘pwede na‘ mentality.