Text by Dr. Nina Radcliff
My friend has a sign in her bathroom stating “Wash your hands and say your prayers because God and germs are everywhere.” While we may have differing opinions on religion, we can all agree that hand washing is important. In fact, it is one of the most important and easiest ways to stay healthy. When it comes to sharing, let’s continue to do so with opinions, ideas, and resources; but let’s wash away the germs.
Here is Dr. Nina’s What You Need to Know about hand washing and stopping the spread of infection:
Where are germs?
Everywhere! You name it and they lie lurking—from doorknobs to phones to computer keyboards to handrails to tabletops. Fortunately, they are too small to see and that helps us cope (it would be frightening otherwise). Unfortunately, this results in “out of sight, out of mind.” Additionally, germs find us irresistible. It is estimated that as many as 10,000 bacterial species inhabit our body! And that if you add up their weight, it is equal to about 3 pounds; similar to what our brain weighs. As Inspector Gadget would say, “Wowzers!”
How are germs spread?
Our fingers are akin to “weapons of mass contamination.” Those ten digits can transmit germs from our nose, mouth, or eyes (by sneezing, coughing, or rubbing our eyes, respectively) to others. Not to mention, our fingers can also spread germs to the food we eat.
One of the most horrific moments in my life was when I learned about “fecal oral transmission” of germs in my microbiology class. This means that germs from stool enter our mouth. In fact, a single gram of human feces (equal to the weight of a paper clip) can contain 1 trillion germs.
When is it best to wash your hands?
• Before cooking, preparing, or eating food
• After using the restroom (even in your own home)
• After changing your child’s diaper
• After sneezing, blowing your nose, or coughing into your hands
• After taking out the garbage
• After feeding pets or cleaning up their waste
• If you think you should! Don’t be stingy.
How can washing your hands be that important?
Studies have shown that handwashing education can decrease the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31% and the number of respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 21%. During flu season (which we are in), handwashing is critical to decrease it from spreading.
What’s all the fuss about?
Although 95% of the population says that they wash their hands after using a public toilet, in reality it is closer to 67%. Furthermore that number does not necessarily mean that they are properly washing their hands.
What is the correct method to washing your hands?
A quick rinse will not clean it. And you must use soap.
• First wet your hands and apply liquid or clean bar soap.
• Next rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all surfaces. Don’t forget your fingernails! Get soap and water under your nails.
• Continue rubbing your hands for 20 seconds. To avoid shortchanging yourself, sing the entire song “Happy Birthday” twice.
• Rinse hands well under running water.
• Dry your hands using paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door.
Can you wash your hands too much?
Although the experts say no, in reality many of us face dry and cracked hands that can make us want to avoid handwashing. This is especially true in the wintertime. To avoid this, use moisturizing soap and apply moisturizing lotion repeatedly throughout the day.
So here’s a pop quiz: What is one of the quickest and most effective ways to stay healthy? WASH YOUR HANDS! Those fingers function as a conduit for the passage of germs. And we want to stop those germs dead in their tracks.
By the way, did you hear the joke about germs? Sorry, I don’t want to spread it.
Notice: This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither Dr. Nina Radcliff or Kimberly Cecchini take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.
Before engaging in any complementary medical technique, including the use of natural or herbal remedies, you should be aware that many of these techniques have not been evaluated in scientific studies. Use of these remedies in connection with over the counter or prescription medications can cause severe adverse reactions. Often, only limited information is available about their safety and effectiveness.