The best way to prevent infections
Since we’re living in an era when there isn’t an antimicrobial drug for every infection, prevention is critical. Although there have been a lot of advances in medicine, proper hand washing is the best way to prevent picking up or spreading an infection. Proper in italics because this is key, and I would venture to say most people don’t do that. That changed after reading Dr. Frederic Saldmann’s Wash Your Hands! (New York: Weinstein Books, 2008).
It’s no secret that hands carry a lot of germs, and not just those that cause skin infections or gastroenteritis. We cough into our hands, touch computers and elevator buttons, shake hands, touch our face, grab onto the handrails of stairs, touch toilet seats and sink faucets, touch our face, pick up fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, touch our face, and then do a split-second wash that may be giving the germs just the chance they need to start a very big family and also get free housing.
Proper hand washing includes washing every part including the space between fingers and cuticles. In the article “Implementing Infection Prevention and Control Precautions in the Community” by Deborah Ward (British Journal of Community Nursing, March 2017, vol. 22, #3) it’s noted that fingernails and fingertips have the highest number of organisms. The author adds that rings and other jewelry can also be a reservoir for germs. She also notes that alcohol-based sanitizers don’t kill the germs that cause the pseudomembranous colitis, a serious lower GI infection.
Drying is just as important because, per Dr. Saldmann’s book, moist hands carry five hundred times as many pathogens as dry hands! Yet another study found that about a third of hand washers don’t dry their hands. And using a damp towel can contaminate washed hands. The most startling news is that using a warm-air dryer actually leads to a significant increase in the number of germs on hands compared with the number before washing them!
After shaking hands with someone that had a recent trip to the bathroom and didn’t wash their hands, there’s a 33% chance you’ll get some of the bacteria from their feces in your mouth within a couple hours. If you think it’s rare for someone to not wash their hands after using the restroom, guess again. In one study, almost half of the research subjects didn’t wash their hands then if they were alone; that’s five times the rate of those who are in the bathroom with other people around. Proper hand washing takes less than a minute – a worthy investment!