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Yes, we should keep the healthier hand washing habits we developed at the start of the pandemic

Yes, we should keep the healthier hand washing habits we developed at the start of the pandemic

  • October 20, 2021

from Melissa Hawkins, American University

People washed their hands so often at the beginning of the pandemic that sensitive skin and Lack of soap were common problems in 2020.

All of this focus on hand washing had a good reason. the Science shows uniform that frequent hand washing reduces the risk of a variety of diseases. It is a low-hanging fruit in the sense of a simple, healthy habit to practice.

But people today don’t wash their hands that often like at the beginning of the pandemic, and many are asking: should I wash my hands more often because of the coronavirus? The short answer is yes. That’s because you probably haven’t washed your hands as often as you should have before the pandemic.

I am an epidemiologist and mom of three boys, a girl, two cats and a dog. Between exercising and a busy household, there are many options for germs to spread in our home, coronavirus or no coronavirus.

Hand washing: how often?

You wash your hands after going to the toilet, but when else should you wash?

In general, germs can get on your hands in a variety of ways – from dirty hands, air droplets when coughing or sneezing, contaminated surfaces, or coming into contact with an infected person’s body fluids. Your hands come into contact with thousands and thousands of microorganisms every day – and that can be a problem considering the average human touching their mouth, nose or eyes upwards 20 times an hour.

In hospitals, medical staff are required to wash their hands before and after each visit to a patient. While you and I may not have to do it that often, it is always a good idea to do it wash your hands in warm or cold water with soap before eating, after using the toilet, when entering outside and after any activity.

Before the pandemic, most people didn’t wash their hands enough. Mainly men were less likely than women remember to wash your hands. In the last few years before the pandemic Hand washing hygiene had slipped in general, both in terms of the frequency of washing and the duration, as people do a simple rinsing process more often. A survey found that only around 40% of people said they washed their hands six or more times a day.

Coronavirus transmission through touch

The SARS-CoV-2 virus is mainly caused by Inhalation of infectious particles in the air. Infecting the coronavirus by touching a surface – known as fomite transmission – is possible, but a Low risk transmission route, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). This indirect transmission could happen if a person touches a contaminated surface, the coronavirus is transmitted to the person’s hand, and then from the hand to the mouth, nose, or eyes.

It is difficult to measure the risk of contagion directly. Laboratory studies have shown that the Coronavirus can survive on surfaces for hours, and in some cases days. Other studies that test surfaces in real conditions – like in a grocery store – did not recognize the coronavirus. A research team estimated that the The risk of infection from transmitting Fomite is less than 5 in 10,000 – Significantly lower than the risk estimates for airborne infection and even lower than the risk for influenza or norovirus.

However, a low risk is not a risk, and hand washing has a direct, inverse relationship with illness. It has been shown to help prevent Respiratory diseases like colds, can spread from diarrhea and even helps prevent children from doing so missing school because of gastrointestinal disease.

The more often you wash, the less likely there are germs on your hands that can make you sick. This applies to the coronavirus as well as to any other pathogen.

Wash when in doubt

The CDC and public health experts often repeat that the first line of defense Against the spread of the coronavirus, hand washing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

In 2020, a survey by the CDC found that a person washed their hands before doing certain things almost doubled compared to 2019. But even so, people don’t wash their hands every time they should, whether it’s a pandemic or not. And despite that early surge, there is evidence that as coronavirus cases are falling Hand washing hygiene decreases also among health professionals.

So how often should you wash your hands? The simple answer is every time you need it.

Use soap. Wash for at least 20 seconds – sing Happy Birthday for about a round. And remember air dry or towel dry because wet hands are also a good carrier for the transmission of germs.

Science is clear that washing hands every day is one of the most important activities a person can do to avoid getting sick or spreading germs to other people. You probably didn’t do it enough before the pandemic, and there has never been a better time to improve your hand washing hygiene, especially as the holiday season approaches.

[Over 110,000 readers rely on The Conversation’s newsletter to understand the world. Sign up today.]The conversation

Melissa Hawkins, Professor of Public Health, American University

This article is republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. read this original article.


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