Washing Your Hands Properly Stops the Spread of Contagious Disease

By Dr. Joseph Mercola

Most people know that washing your hands can help to prevent passing on nasty viruses and bacteria. But how many people just flick their hands under a dribbling tap and think that will do? Now hopeless hand washers will be caught with glowing green fingers by a good hand-washing test.

A new hand-washing training kit uses a cream containing a harmless dye that glows green in ultraviolet light to show up shoddy hand washing. Demonstrators put a blob of cream on people’s hands and send them away to wash them. When they come back, they are often amazed at how much glowing green dye remains on their fingers. If the dye were a microbe, they would be standing a good chance of infecting themselves and passing it on to other people.

The glowing cream can also be used to show how viruses such as those that cause colds and flu can survive on hard surfaces and be spread from hand to hand. Just touching a doorknob that has had a little of the special cream applied to it can make people’s fingers turn green under UV light — and then when they touch another person’s hand the green glow gets passed on.

It has been shown time and time again that washing your hands with soap and water can kill viruses that cause:

• The common cold
• Hepatitis A
• Acute gastroenteritis
• Other illnesses

Thorough hand-washing truly is an important step, as you are at far greater risk of passing on an infection by shaking someone‘s hand than even by sharing a kiss.

One report even found that regular hand washing may be more effective than drugs in preventing the spread of respiratory viruses such as influenza. Germs that cause stomach infections such as salmonella, campylobacter and norovirus can also circulate directly from person to person via your hands.

Good hand hygiene has, in fact, been called your best option in the event of a flu pandemic.

In the study, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, people who used antibacterial soaps and cleansers developed a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms just as often as people who used products that did not contain antibacterial ingredients.

Studies have also found that soap and water work better than the waterless, alcohol-based hand wipes and rubs. Further, the active ingredient in most antibacterial products is triclosan, an antibacterial agent that kills bacteria and inhibits bacterial growth. But not only does triclosan kill bacteria, it also has been shown to kill human cells.

Antibacterial soaps and cleansers kill both good and bad bacteria, which is why they are prone to contributing to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and potentially also to allergic diseases like asthma and hay fever.

The Society for General Microbiology’s good hand-washing test was eye-opening for many who believed they had thoroughly washed their hands, yet found they had many spots of “glowing green” left.

So to make sure you’re actually removing the germs when you wash your hands, follow this three-step hand-washing technique:

1. Use warm water
2. Work up a good lather all the way up to your wrists for at least 10 or 15      seconds
3. Don’t forget to get all surfaces including the backs of your hands, wrists,      between your fingers and an area often overlooked — your fingernails

There is one important caveat to remember, and that is your skin is actually your primary defense against bacteria — not the soap.

So resist the urge to become obsessive about washing your hands. If you wash them too frequently you can actually extract many of the protective oils in your skin, which can cause your skin to crack and bleed.

Sources: Mercola.com June 26, 2009
                  Science Daily June 3, 2009
                  Society for General Microbiology June 3, 2009

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