April 22, 2020 3 min read

Research: People are not washing their hands as well as they should and some healthcare workers aren’t at all.

Giving a whole new take to the saying, “young, wild and free” a new study has found that almost a third of young Australians under 25 are not washing their hands properly, with over 50% acknowledging that they don’t scrub even before they handle food. Hand hygiene has been identified as the most effective way to reduce the transmission of viral diseases such as norovirus (gastro), and even the recent coronavirus’ spread can be reduced with hygiene practice, making it more important than ever to properly wash our hands.

Even more startling was the research which found that when hospital personnel, such as doctors and nurses, were not being monitored, compliance to hand hygiene practice dropped from 94% to just 30%, a finding that is incredibly concerning for health facilities and patients alike. Lack of time, non-habitual washing and limited knowledge were the main reasons underpinning non-compliance of the hand washing policy, reiterating just how important it is for people to understand the risk they pose to others simply by not washing their hands properly; for example, Check out this clip to see just how much bacteria can grow after one toilet visit. The primary bacteria found after a toilet visit was E. Coli, which can cause symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach pain, fever and sometimes vomiting. E. Coli and other similar types of germs can be transmitted after a toilet visit but also through other means such as changing a nappy, or handling raw meats that may have invisible animal feces on them;   A single gram of human faeces—which is about the weight of a paper clip—can contain one trillion germs, with improper hand washing the primary cause of transmission (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed 01/03/2020).

The key message here is not to leave your health in somebody else’s hands (literally) because you just don’t know how clean they really are. Now is the time to be asking your providers and therapists when they last cleaned the bed, changed the towels, and (properly) washed their hands to avoid the risk of an infection.

On the flip side, there are a lot of messages out there about the importance of washing your hands properly, but what does that really mean?

When should you wash your hands?

The first step is recognize WHEN you need to wash, with a comprehensive list provided by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) below:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone at home who is sick with vomiting or diarrhea
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

 

What is the proper method to clean your hands?

 

The CDC states that if soap and running water are not available, a hand sanitiser made of at least 60% alcohol is the next best thing, even though it is not as effective. Ensure your hands are dry and not dirty before applying the gel and make sure you wait 20 seconds after rubbing the gel in before touching anything.

Whilst such a simple task, washing your hands properly is incredibly important to reduce the risk of infection, not only for yourself but for everyone and everything around you. Contact transmission is the quickest way by which harmful bacteria can move from person to person and cause illness, elevating hand washing to the most important thing one can do to help combat the spread of disease. Take your health into your own hands, and ask about hand hygiene.



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