Hand Washing

Frequent hand washing is a good way to keep from catching the flu. A recent study shows doctors don't measure up to nurses in handwashing frequency.

Good sanitary practices are imperative to healthcare workers to prevent spreading germs.

Researchers in Cardiff, Wales monitored soap dispensers in a Primary Care surgical center for a year to determine the amount of soap used and the concentration of doctors and nurses.

The nurses appeared to show greater attention to personal hygiene than the doctors, with the best performing nurses washing twice as often as their physician counterparts.

The report was done by a general practitioner at Canna Surgery in Cardiff Wales; the findings are published in the British Medical Journal.

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Hand Washing Facts

  • What is the single most important thing we can do to prevent the spread of infection? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s washing our hands.

  • In a review of contributing factors to food-borne disease outbreaks over a five-year period, the CDC reports that poor personal hygiene was a contributing factor in over a third of the outbreaks.

  • In one nationwide study, 94 percent of consumers surveyed said they always washed their hands after using the restroom. However, observers planted in public restrooms in five major cities found that only 68 percent, in fact, did so.

  • Women were more likely than men to wash up (74 versus 61 percent), but neither came close to what they said they did.

  • Here are the five most common household scenarios in which disease-causing germs are transmitted by contaminated hands:
    • Hands to food: Germs are transmitted from unclean hands to food, usually by infected food preparers who didn’t wash their hands after using the toilet. The germs are then passed to those who eat the food.

    • Infected infant to hands to other children: Germs are passed from an infant with diarrhea to the hands of a parent or care giver when a diaper is changed. Unless the caregiver immediately washes his or her hands, the germs are then passed to the second child he or she works with.

    • Food to hands to food: Germs are transmitted from raw, uncooked foods, such as chicken, to hands, and then onto other foods, such as salad. Cooking the raw food kills the initial germs, but the salad remains contaminated.

    • Nose, mouth or eyes to hands to others: Germs that cause colds, eye infections and other illnesses are spread to hands by sneezing, coughing, or rubbing the eyes. They are then transferred to other family members or friends through direct contact or through foods handled by the infected person.

    • Food to hands to infants: Germs are transmitted from raw, uncooked foods to infants by parents or care givers who don’t wash their hands between handling raw chicken, for example, and tending to an infant.

How Should You Wash Your Hands?

  • The CDC recommends vigorous scrubbing with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds, then rinsing with clear water and drying with a clean towel.

  • Any type of soap will do. It’s not necessary to use anti-bacterial soap. In fact, the American Academy of Microbiology warns against widespread use of anti-microbial products because they are likely to lead to the development of more resistant bacteria.

  • Here are four simple hand-washing steps:
    • Wet your hands with warm running water.

    • Add soap, then rub your hands together, making a soapy lather. Do this away from the running water for at least 10 seconds, being careful not to wash the lather away. Wash the front and back of your hands, as well as between your fingers and under your nails.

    • Rinse your hands well under warm running water. Let the water run back into the sink, not down to your elbows. Turn off the water with a paper towel and dispose in a proper receptacle.

    • Dry hands thoroughly with a clean towel.

Sources: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/columnnn/nn010320.html (The Colorado State University Nutrition News Web site) and http://healthlink.mcw.edu/article/955074416.html (HealthLink Medical College of Wisconsin) contributed to this report.