Over 1 trillion microbes set up housekeeping on our skin, most of which are not harmful to our personal beings. However since staph and other microbes can cause disease–hand washing is the single most important step in controlling, removing or eliminating infectious organisms. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? A quick shove under the faucets, slosh a little soap around and voila! Unfortunately this type of wash doesn’t remove bacteria, it just gives them a little bath and they go about their business.
Proper hand washing requires warm to hot running water, a good scrub brush and soap. Products labeled “antimicrobial” — nothing more than a marketing buzzword, created to convince you that you are going to be protected! (google triclosan to see what I’m talking about!) The equation for proper and effective hand washing is simply soap + water + friction x 2 minutes = successful interdigitation! Friction is the movement that does the trick (we like friction!) the physical act of rubbing your hands together removes resident and transient bacteria — not the use of “antimicrobial” soaps. Microbes love to hide under rings, watches and bracelets; it’s a good idea to remove these items prior to washing your hands. How many microbes colonize around fingernails and cuticles? Anywhere between 1–10 million of the little buggers! Yeah, stop picking your nose … Staphylococcus aureus, is commonly carried on the skin or in the nose of healthy individuals. Approximately 25-30% of the population is colonized (when bacteria are present but not causing infection) in the nose. Staph lives in and around your mouth, genitals and rectum; other types of staph infections are impetigo, carbuncles and cellulitis. All can be transmitted through dirty hands, improper bandages and don’t get me started on drinking water …. but that’s another story!
Now, for a fun little quiz: It’s either TRUE or FALSE
1. Most bacteria are harmful to humans. T F
2. The skin of the hands, feet forehead and scalp have fewer microorganisms than the trunk of the body. T F
3. Hand washing does not prevent infections. T F
Email firstname.lastname@example.org Place the word “wash hands” in the subject line then leave your answers — see what happens.