When was the last time you washed your hands?
Was it this morning?
Did you wash your hands before leaving the restroom? Everyone says they do but I still see more people leave the restroom without washing their hands than those that do. The most common reason given for not doing so is, “My mamma taught me not to pee on my hands.” I have a real problem with that kind of arrogance. It disregards the well being of everyone you encounter for the rest of the day. It’s a giant “F- You!” to the rest of us. I wash my hands twice in public restrooms. The additional washing is on the way in because I want my hands to be as germ-free as possible before I handle the family jewels.
I am fairly obsessed with hand washing, not just around restrooms. I’m not really a gernaphobe. It’s just that, over the years, I’ve gotten used to washing my hands fairly often. From when I was a little boy helping my grandmother in the kitchen, to a teenager slicing lunch meat at the deli counter, and then as an adult working in the food and beverage industry, clean hands have always been very important. As obsessions go, hand washing is pretty mundane. But it does have it’s drawbacks. As any bartender will tell you, all that hand washing makes for dry, chapped hands.
One of my biggest pet peeves is the overuse of those stupid plastic gloves that have become the mainstay of the food service industry. Those gloves have made people lazy. I watched a deli worker at my local supermarket begin to fill my deli order wearing the same single use gloves I saw him wearing while wiping down his work area. Single use gloves are not supposed to take the place of hand washing. In fact, according to the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, single use gloves are only effective if placed on properly washed hands and changed at appropriate times during the food operation. I told him to stop, change his gloves, and start my order again. He got upset, so I left without my order. Of course, I spoke to the manager first.
Another concern is the proliferation of hand sanitizer, which has become a substitute for hand washing. When used properly, hand sanitizers kill 99% of germs. But soap and water are still more effective than hand sanitizers at removing or inactivating certain kinds of germs, like Cryptosporidium, norovirus, and Clostridium difficile. Furthermore, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), hand sanitizers may increase the risk for outbreaks of highly contagious viruses.
“It’s widely recognized that improper use of antibiotics contributes greatly to the development and spread of super bugs in health care settings, but the link between hand sanitizers and bacterial resistance is less clear.”- Lauren Vogel CMAJ
However, according to microbiologist Stuart Levy of Tufts University School of Medicine, Antibacterial products leave residues where they are used. They linger and continue to kill the bacteria, but not effectively or randomly. The naturally stronger bacteria that survived the initial assault develop new defense mechanisms against the chemicals. This selection process gives rise to a new generation that is resistant to the offending compounds. (source)
I suspect Mr Levy is referring to alcohol-free antimicrobial hand sanitizers that are made with triclosan or povidone-iodine which, as shown in the video below, are ineffective at best.
In the following video, which aired in February 2013, ABC’s Dr. Richard Besser compares the best ways for killing germs, including E Coli.
So, in order for your hand sanitizer to be effective it has to be alcohol based (>63% alcohol), you must use enough to cover your hands, and you need to work it into your hands and let air dry for about 30 seconds. Why not just wash your hands with soap and water?
How many times a day do you touch your face?
In a scene from Contagion (2011) Dr. Erin Mears (Kate Winslet) claims that the average person touches their face between two and three thousand times a day, or 2-5 times every waking minute.
According to researchers at the University of California at Berkeley, the reality is closer to 16 times an hour. That’s still a lot. Each time you touch your face, you’re transmitting whatever is on your fingers to your face. Touching your face with dirty hands, or cellphone, is the most common way to spread diseases like Influenza and Ebola.
We’ve become so reliant on quick fixes and magic bullets that we’ve forgotten the basics. I don’t mean for this to be a rant. I’m just curious how we’ve come to rely on these products that were only meant to be used in addition to, not in place of, good hygiene. And it’s kinda strange to me that, with all the paranoia over Ebola, people aren’t taking the simplest precaution. Just 20 seconds of soap and water. If that’s all it takes, why not wash your hands??
For more info, check out the CDC Show Me The Science Hand Sanitizer vs Hand Washing and the CDC Guidelines to Washing Your Hands.