Hand washing, also known as hand hygiene, is the act of cleaning hands for the purpose of removing soil, dirt, and microorganisms. If water and soap is not available, hands can be cleaned with ash instead. A substitute for tap water is pouring water from a hanging jerrycan or gourd. Medical hand hygiene refers to hygiene practices related to medical procedures. Hand washing before administering medicine or medical care can prevent or minimize the spread of disease. The main medical purpose of washing hands is to cleanse the hands of pathogens (like bacteria or viruses) and chemicals which can cause harm or disease. This is especially important for people who handle food or work in the medical field, but also important practice for the general public. Handwashing with soap consistently at critical moments during the day prevents the spread of diseases like diarrhoea and cholera which are transmitted through fecal-oral routes. People can become infected with respiratory diseases such as influenza or the common cold, for example, if they do not wash their hands before touching their eyes, nose, or mouth.
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