Gross out alert: About 3,000 germ-y droplets exit the mouth at up to 50 miles per hour every time a person coughs. Yuck, right? Even more eww-inducing: Those germs thrive for hours—even several days in some cases, like with H1N1—on hard surfaces, such as door knobs, subway poles, phones and computers. But a study done by researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that at least 16 percent of respiratory infections would be prevented if people washed their hands more often (and more effectively). In honor of Global Handwashing Day on October 15, we’d like to share some need-to-know, but under-the-radar, sudsy intel.
You wash your hands after you use the bathroom or before prepping food or eating. These aren’t the only times you should wash. Studies have found that people touch their faces 16 times an hour so you may want to make a few extra trips to the washroom each day. Keeping your paws clean is important for fending off sickness.
You do a quick rinse—hey, it’s better than nothing! Experts say soaping up for 20 seconds is necessary to eliminate germs. The chorus of Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” is about the right length. Sing it in your head, hum it, or belt it out—whatever works for you.
You use scalding hot water. It’s a myth that hot water kills more germs, so there’s no need to use scalding water if it chafes or irritates your hands! In a study in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, there was no difference in water temps ranging from 40 to 120 degrees F when it came to getting rid of germs.
You use antibacterial soap. When researchers had a group of participants scrub their hands with bar soap, antibacterial soap, antiseptic hand wipes, and an alcohol-based hand gel, plain old bar soap was best at removing bacteria.
You rely on alcohol-based cleanser. If you’re not near soap and water, alcohol-based gels like Purell are a good option. When hand sanitizers were placed in classrooms, the number of sick days the students took went down by 20 percent, according to a study in the American Journal of Infection Control. Keep some in your car, purse, desk and tuck some into your kids’ backpacks. But in general, good old soap and water are your best bet.
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