At this point, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, you’ve probably been told to wash your hands dozens and dozens of times; by the government, articles on Facebook, and possibly even us. But what does it actually mean to “wash your hands”? Are we talking about soap and water, or hand sanitizer? And how does it help you avoid the virus?Image Credit: ShutterstockIn this article, we’ll explain in brief what the difference is between the two hand hygiene options, as well as how and why you should be disinfecting your digits to prevent you, and your loved ones, from getting sick.Hand SanitizerHand sanitizer is an alcohol-based solution that you apply to kill germs and bacteria. For it to be in any way effective, it needs to be at least 60% alcohol, otherwise, it won’t kill enough of the microbes. However, no hand sanitizer is completely effective; it’s always going to leave some trace amount of bacteria behind. So if indeed you do have the virus on your hands, and you use a strong sanitizer, it still might not be good enough to stop you from getting sick.However, it can still be useful to have on hand. If you’re out of the house for work, education or buying essential items, and in a situation where you cannot wash your hands with soap, sanitizer should absolutely be applied.Soap & WaterWashing your hands with soap and warm water is by far the best way to get rid of the virus from your hands, since it actually physically removes it. In addition to this, while soap doesn’t kill all microbes, it has been shown to kill SarsCoV2 very effectively. This means that if you wash your hands thoroughly, it is actually possible to remove all bacteria. And as a bonus, you need to use far less soap than sanitiser to get the most out of it.So while sanitizer is useful to have and is helpful in certain scenarios, it is no substitute for handwashing. If you’ve left your house for any reason, and are in a situation where you are able to wash your hands with soap and warm water, do it.Why is this so important?While we don’t know everything about the coronavirus, we are as certain as we can be that it’s main mode of transmission is through small droplets of moisture that are coughed, sneezed or breathed out by people carrying the virus. These droplets will end up on hard surfaces like handrails, door handles, and shopping trolleys, and can be transferred onto your own hands if you touch them.This is why you’ve been encouraged by various health organisations not to touch your face, and also why handwashing is so important. If your hand doesn’t touch your face, you’re much less likely to be infected and if you wash and remove the virus from your hands then there is practically no risk. Of course, this is not a guarantee that following these directions will stop you from contracting the virus entirely, but it will significantly lower your chances.We understand that this is a difficult time for a great many people. If your mental health is really suffering, please reach out and get some help. Beyond Blue has a dedicated support service for this exact situation, so find out more by clicking here, or just calling them on 1800 512 348The latest government information about restrictions and financial help can be found here.If you have any concerns yourself about coronavirus or your respiratory health, you can get in touch with us to book a no fee telehealth appointment with our respiratory specialists.Breathe Well – Live Well-This article is from Keystone Medical Media, a sub-entity of Keystone Content.