Tag Archives: Handwashing saves lives

The Science of Handwashing

We all know that keeping hands clean helps keep us from getting sick, but how does handwashing actually work?  Can we really get rid of all the germs on our hands?  Is there a single best technique for handwashing?  Do antibacterial soaps really work?  Scientists have studied these questions, and some of the answers may be surprising.

What exactly are germs?  Can handwashing really get rid of them?

Microbes, microscopic organisms, are everywhere, including on human skin.  Many of the microbes on hands are single-celled bacteria.  Many of the bacteria are always there, living harmless and unnoticed; these are called resident bacteria.  Other bacteria are picked up from the environment; these are called transient bacteria.  Transients can persist on skin for days to months, but can’t live there forever.  They may include pathogens — disease causing organisms, or germs.

Handwashing can never completely remove resident bacteria; there may be 10,000 or more individual bacteria on each hand, and they are adept at sticking to skin and slithering down between the cracks in skin cells to avoid removal.  Transient bacteria are present in fewer numbers and are not adapted to living on skin surfaces; they can be completely removed by handwashing.  Therefore, the purpose of handwashing is not to make hands sterile; it is to get rid of any potential pathogens that have hitched a ride.  However, handwashing technique can vary, and as we will see, some variables are more important than others in making sure pathogens have been removed.     

Does it matter if the water is hot or cold?

Although germs aren’t likely to be destroyed by water temperatures we can tolerate, health experts have long recommended washing hands with warm or hot water.  The reason is that warmer water should help dissolve oils and other substances coating skin, helping to wash away germs with them.  Unfortunately, recent studies comparing the numbers of bacteria on hands washed with cold, warm, and hot water have shown no difference in the results — just as many bacteria remain no matter what water temperature is used.  Since using hot water uses more energy and might irritate the skin if handwashing is frequent, cold water might be a better option.

What does soap actually do?

In general, soap doesn’t kill germs.  In fact, populations of bacteria have been found thriving in liquid soap dispensers in public restrooms.  Instead, the purpose of soap is to help remove contaminants and bacteria from the skin surface.  There is an extra benefit as well; some studies have examined how thoroughly volunteers washed their hands with and without soap; the volunteers using soap did a much more thorough job.  Using water alone will reduce the number of germs on hands, but using soap is more effective.  

Should antibacterial soap be used?  What about other sanitizers?

Although antibacterial soap is everywhere, there is no scientific evidence that it is any better at removing germs from hands than regular soap.  There is also concern that triclosan, a common ingredient in antibacterial soap, could cause bacteria to become resistant to antibiotics.

For how long should hands be washed?

The length of handwashing depends on the circumstances; for example, very dirty hands or hands exposed to more pathogens need a longer period.  In general, studies show that 20-30 seconds of handwashing is all it takes to remove most germs.  To help time handwashing, you can hum the “Happy Birthday” song two times – this should take approximately 20 seconds.

Which areas get missed?

Worldwide, the same areas are missed again and again when hands are washed.  Fingertips, cuticles, between the fingers, and the back of the hand, especially the thumb and ring finger, are areas which get the least attention; therefore, these are the areas where most germs remain.

GlitterBug is designed to disclose where hand washing can improve.

Research-based handwashing technique

In order for handwashing to work, proper technique is a must.  Begin handwashing by wetting hands with warm or cool water.  Apply soap and lather hands; remember commonly-missed areas such as around the nails, between the fingers, and the backs of the hands.  Scrub hands together for at least 20 seconds (or two rounds of the “Happy Birthday” song) before thoroughly rinsing and drying.

As long as the proper technique is used, handwashing is an excellent way to reduce or eliminate transient bacteria, including disease-causing pathogens.  

What Everyone Should Know about Hand Sanitizers

Hand sanitizers have been a popular commodity since the emergence of Covid-19 in the Spring of 2020. There was even a shortage for a while, as everyone rushed to stores to stock up. As sales continue to rise consumers should be aware of the ingredients of the product and the marketing techniques that manufacturers use to increase sales.

Alcohol Content

According to the FDA, in order to be effective, hand sanitizers should contain at least 60% alcohol. The label may list this as ethanol, ethyl alcohol, or isopropyl alcohol. If the label does not show the percentage of alcohol contained in the product, do not buy it. 

Some types of alcohol are extremely dangerous, and it is doubtful that a manufacturer would list these on the label if they are present, but the FDA has found contamination with methyl alcohol or 1-propanol in some hand sanitizers manufactured in Mexico and sold in the U.S. Methyl alcohol, or wood alcohol as it is sometimes called, is used to make antifreeze. 1-propanol is an ingredient of industrial solvents.

False Claims

Claims that hand sanitizers can prevent Covid-19, influenza or other diseases are misleading. Any product making these claims should be avoided. Hand sanitizers, when used properly, can only kill germs that are on your hands, and only lasts until you touch something else.

Misleading Marketing Practices

Some hand sanitizers on the market are scented with appetizing smells such as chocolate or strawberries. If a child smells these, he or she may think they are good to drink. Hand sanitizers packaged in containers that resemble beverage cans, water bottles or food pouches can also mislead young children into thinking that the contents are edible food products.

There have been cases where a person has mistakenly believed that a product that contains alcohol is OK to drink. Since alcoholic beverages contain alcohol, why not drink Nyquil, extract of Vanilla, mouth wash, or hand sanitizer and get a similar “buzz”?  Ingesting any of these products could produce headaches, diarrhea, vomiting, irregular heart rate, seizures and if a very large quantity is consumed, possibly coma or death could result. 

Since hand sanitizers seem to be everywhere these days it is important to understand what the ingredients are. Make sure the contents are clearly labeled and contain a minimum of 60% alcohol. Ignore claims made on labels that the hand sanitizer you are buying will prevent influenza, Covid-19 or anything else. It does not. Never ingest hand sanitizer. It is not safe for human consumption. Small children should be supervised when using hand sanitizers. When shopping for hand sanitizers, avoid packaging that could be mistaken for food products. Steer clear of those with appetizing scents. 

Teach people how to apply hand sanitizer correctly with Glitterbug Gel.

Can the holidays make you sick?

What makes us get sick more often during the holiday season?

Many theories have been postulated and studied over the years and many factors are blamed for being virus enablers. Closer proximity of hosts (us) within closed spaces makes transmission easier due to the shared air we breathe while indoors and the common surfaces we touch as people share confined areas. Further, foods are presented and ingested in areas with higher germ populations due to the foregoing.

Other theories suggest that inactivity and depression generally increases with the cold and gloomy weather and this coupled with decreased exposure to the sun may tend to inhibit our immune systems.

We suspect that all of these factors and more contribute to the seasonal spike in illnesses. But, there are some commons sense actions that can help reduce your chances of being the next holiday (infection) host. The most effective way to reduce your risks of seasonal sickness is to wash your hands often, especially after shaking hands, touching surfaces in common areas such as handrails and countertops and especially before eating.

In the spirit of holiday cheer (and microbial fear) check out these funny new flu and handwashing posters meant to remind with mirth and good cheer.

Healthy holidays to all.


New Flu & Handwashing Posters

 

Image of flu close up by cdc.gov.

September is Food Safety Month

September is National Food Safety Month and because everybody eats, everybody should be reminded about the importance of safe food handling. Safe food handling is critical of course for those who prepare your food, but the food-consumer should be careful not to introduce microbial pests while eating. Proper hand-washing is the common denominator of effective infection prevention. To help you with your mission of promoting food-safety and infection prevention Brevis is holding a September Special.

Sick Facts

  • Foodborne illnesses cost the U.S. about $78 billion per year.
  • Each year, approximately 1 in 6 Americans gets foodborne illness.
  • Foodborne illnesses result in over 3,000 deaths each year.
  • 68% of outbreaks occur at restaurants.
    Sourced from CDC.gov

10% off all GlitterBug products

Just enter promo code “Educate” while checking out your shopping cart.

Clean hands, safe food, healthy people.

GlitterBug handwashing products

Food Safety (CDC.gov)

Government Study Says You’re Washing Your Hands the Wrong Way

…Which Is Gross and You Should Fix It

Hey, did you wash your hands recently? Well, you probably did it wrong. CNN pointed out a recent government study found that 97 percent of the time, people fail to properly wash their hands—a problem that can lead to all sorts of unnecessary illnesses being spread.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, people are falling short of meeting the standards for acceptable handwashing set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The bar to make sure your hands are sufficiently clean requires you to wash and scrub with soap for at least 20 seconds.

The study looked at 363 people in six kitchen test facilities located in the Raleigh-Durham region of North Carolina and in the town of Smithfield, North Carolina. What it found was nearly every person working in the kitchens failed to reach the handwashing standard set by the CDC, which is probably not reassuring if you’re currently out to eat at a restaurant in Tar Heel State.

Read on Gizmodo

GlitterBug handwashing products

By AJ Dellinger / gizmodo.com

Moments when you should wash your hands

Certain events, actions or circumstances can make handwashing more important. For example, after being in public places, or handling often-touched objects like handrails and doorknobs, before preparing food, before eating and after using the rest-room. When possible it is best to avoid touching moist areas of your body such as eyes, nose and mouth unless you first wash your hands. Further, it is advisable to wash your hands after touching those areas. Germs most often travel by climbing aboard hands until they find a good opportunity to jump off into food we consume or directly into the portals of our bodies (mouth, nose and eyes etc.). Before helping these bugs find the greener pastures and making us sick send them down the drain.

cdc.gov/handwashing

GlitterBug handwashing products

My Five Moments for Hand Hygiene

The World Health Organization (WHO) has included an easy strategy for hand hygiene improvement in the WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care (Advanced Draft). My 5 Moments for Hand Hygiene defines key moments when health care workers ought to be engaging in hand hygiene.


Image courtesy of WHO:
http://www.who.int/gpsc/5may/5Moments_Image.gif

Using this model, health care workers are reminded to clean their hands at the following times:

  1. Before touching a patient
  2. Before clean/aseptic procedures
  3. After body fluid exposure or risk
  4. After touching a patient
  5. After touching patient surroundings

Though the instruction may seem like a review of basic principles, it helps overcome misleading language and complicated descriptions. Easy to learn, logical, and widely applicable, My 5 Moments serves as a reminder of one of the most important things any health care worker can do to protect themselves and others from infection: practice proper hand hygiene.

Products to Teach Handwashing

Sources:

The filthy dirty truth about handwashing and hygiene in public restrooms

hygiene habits in public restrooms

We’ve all been there: You have to “go” and you’re nowhere near home so you have a choice: shame yourself or (gasp!) use a public restroom. So you consult a phone app to find the closest clean restroom (yes, there are several apps) and enroute to your designated clean loo you strategize how to get your business done and come out unscathed. How do you get IN or OUT of the restroom without touching the door handle, for instance? Do you use your elbow? Do you grab a tissue or moist wipe from the pack you always keep handy? Same goes for the stall door. And what if the seat is in the wrong position? You can always employ the squat-and-hover method and flush the toilet with your foot.

Discussing the variations is like watching a skit on Saturday Night Live. Let’s say you flushed the toilet with your foot. Well, that means the next person might use their hands and whatever was on your shoe is now on their hands. And vice versa. You used a paper towel to open the door, but there’s no garbage to dispose of the now dirty towel…so where do you put it? And let’s say you placed your handbag or backpack on the hook on the stall door, but what was on the hook before you got there? Because you may be taking it with you. It’s a vicious cycle. Is there a solution?

After one of the largest handwashing surveys in the UK revealed some “deplorable habits” recently, a company there launched a product to promote hand hygiene and shame bad hygiene by displaying rates on screens in bathrooms. The product was piloted across different types of businesses such as education, office and retail facilities as well as other sectors where good hand hygiene is essential—and the company claims the “informal nudge” and increased peer pressure helped drive good behavior rates up dramatically. “Hand washing rates rose to 90 per cent within two days of the data being displayed, before stabilising between 80 per cent and 85 per cent.”

Of course, we never tire of handwashing discussions around here. Now, another new survey from restroom fixture manufacturer Bradley Corporation has gone and given us more fodder by covering the actions many of us take to avoid touching anything in a restroom. Sounds oddly familiar and we’re not alone: 57% of people using public restrooms operate the flusher with their foot; 55% use paper towels with the door handle; 45% open and close the door with behind (we assume that’s a hip or bum); and 69% of people use their elbows to avoid all contact in a public restroom.

We look forward to a world where 100% of respondents are washing their hands, but in the meantime we’ll take an increase in people using paper towels, elbows, feet and bums, too.  Of course, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to the state of public restrooms. In fact, an unpleasant restroom experience can create a damaging and lasting impression for a business—and that’s bad for business. According to the Bradley survey, the majority of consumers believe an unclean restroom indicates poor management (69%), lowers their opinion of the company (67% ) and signifies that the business doesn’t care about customers (63%).

Which brings us to another improvement we’re thrilled to see in the business of taking care of our business: clean public restroom apps. There are several out there and we’re not making a recommendation, but it can’t be worse than going to a public restroom without some kind of head’s up.

  • Sit or Squat is brought to you by none other than Charmin, the makers of toilet paper and it has one purpose: to identify bathrooms around you and let you know if they’re nice and clean . . . or not so nice. This app is crowd-sourced, but it receives mixed feedback from users.
  • Toilet Finder uses the slogan “May the flush be with you” and claims its database to includes more than 70,000 public-accessible restrooms.
  • Whizzer claims to be the ultimate bathroom locator and lets you search by current location to find clean restrooms, those that are open late at night, and those with showers. You can also search to include baby changing stations, feminine hygiene products, and can even specify just how clean you want the restroom to be. You can even follow them on Twitter!
  • Diaroogle.com calls themselves “the premier toilet search engine” and when the time comes for us to go, we really hope they’re right.
  • Bathroom Scout offers turn-by-turn navigation can lead you directly to blessed relief. If imagery is available on street view, “Bathroom Scout” can also show you the location around the bathroom, providing added peace of mind.
  • Where to Wee is an app that helps you find and rate restrooms worldwide. “Whether it’s a road-trip that never seems to end, or an endless line in front of the women’s restroom: when you gotta go, you gotta know.