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Lifestyle Choices for Wellness

Timely discussion on topics of health and wellness to encourage action and improvement in personal wellness.

08/02/2013 Handwashing: Dishing the Dirt

Maybe its the exhaustion of a busy summer, vacations, wedding planning stress and just being on the go constantly, but somehow its August and I am sick. I think we tend to correlate illness, colds, the flu, etc. with winter months, yet I have been sick THREE times this summer. How is this happening? I take fantastic care of myself, exercise, eat healthy and get plenty of sleep, isn't that all it takes?  I guess not!
I then got to thinking how easy it is to pick up a germ or bug from somewhere, just in the course of daily life. Think about how many germs lurk on door handles, equipment at the gym, drinking fountains, shopping carts, and so on. Unless you are washing your hands every 10 minutes your liable to be toting around a nice collection of germs on your hands. I received an email with this bit of research in it the other day and it alarmed me:

Handwashing is one of the most effective means to reduce the spread of infectious disease. It also helps protect against food borne illness outbreaks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately half of all food borne illness outbreaks is due to people not washing their hands properly.

A recent study at Michigan State University found that only 5 percent of people (consumers, not food service workers) in a college town using restrooms properly washed their hands. The study observed over 3,000 people after they had gone to the restroom and discovered that about 10 percent (384 people) skipped washing their hands all together and about one-third (33%) did not use soap. Of those who did wash their hands, the average time spent doing so was about six seconds. The recommended time by the CDC is 15 seconds.

Iowa State University Extension debunked 5 myths of hand washing:

MYTH: Very hot water is necessary.
FACT: Hot or cold water causes discomfort and ineffective washing and rinsing.Most soaps work with water that is 45° to 130°F. but the most effective watertemperature is 98° to 110°F. This is comfortably warm to most people. Using water that is too hot also removes some of the protective oils naturally found on skin.

MYTH: Antimicrobial soap is necessary.
FACT: Studies have shown that ordinary soap (those without antimicrobial components) work just as well at preventing bacteria and germ transmission as antimicrobial soap products.

MYTH: Cloth towels work fine to dry hands.
FACT: Bacteria numbers increase in damp towels leading to recontamination of hands. A paper towel is your best choice for drying hands.

MYTH: Hand sanitizers are as good as washing.
FACT: Hand sanitizers do not work on soiled hands and are ineffective against NOROVIRUS, the leading cause of gastroenteritis in the United States.

MYTH: Washing with soap and water is your best bet for clean hands. You only need to wash after using the bathroom.
FACT:Wash your hands after any possible contact with fecal material. This is always after using the restroom, changing a diaper (wet or otherwise), or petting an animal.

So just some extras to think about, to try and stop the spread of germs and protect yourself, so people (like me) don't end up sick in bed while the sunny days of summer pass by!

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