Skip to main content

Hygiene – Why must you wash your hands?

Hygiene – If you haven’t been living under a rock, you have been told by every health professional that washing your hands is the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 (a Coronavirus that has received a lot of attention lately). It seems like a common sense thing to do because, after all, washing your hands is a good idea and of course, good hygiene. And who knows where your hands have been? But there is more to this ‘hand washing is a good idea’ and there are very good reasons to do this. Below are some ideas to consider regarding washing your mitts in the midst of this pandemic.

Picking up the COVID-19 virus

Most people who get infected with a bug literally pick it up off of a surface or a commonly handled item, like a pole in a train. Did you know that coronavirus can persist on inanimate surfaces like metal, glass or plastic for up to 9 days?[i] Strangely, you can literally dip your both hands in a bucket of COVID-19 and you won’t get infected because, unless you have compromised skin, you won’t get infected through the hands. It is only when the virus comes in contact with the Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors that the virus can enter the body. Unfortunately, these receptors are throughout your mouth and nose so simply touching your face could cause an infection in your body, this is why hand hygiene is so important.

Hygiene how to – How to wash your hands

Because the COVID-19 was only discovered in late 2019 (that is where the ‘19’ part of the name comes from), not a lot of research has been done on agents that kill the virus. A study published in Late March 2020 stated that one of the best ways to reduce infection is to simply keep up healthy hygiene habits and wash your hands with soap and warm water.[ii] However, we also know that COVID-19 can be efficiently inactivated by surface disinfection procedures with 62-71% ethanol, 0.5% hydrogen peroxide or 0.1% sodium hypochlorite within 1 minute. Other biocidal agents such as 0.05-0.2% benzalkonium chloride or 0.02% chlorhexidine digluconate are less effective.[iii]

When to wash your hands

Current advice is to wash your hands using the above methods ‘frequently’ to reduce your chance of getting an infection. And while this is true, there are specific times when you should wash your hands, along with your frequent general handwashing:

  1. After you visit the shops. When you visit the shop, you grab a shopping trolley or basket and also use your hands to pick up cans of foods, etc. Yet, the person using your trolly before you or, the person who picked up the cat food can before you may have had COVID-19.

 

  1. When you use a public toilet. Yes, I am sure you do that already, but do you wash your hands after you close the toilet door? You should! Or, use your elbows to push open doors if you can to avoid contact with your hands.

 

  1. When you get home from work. You love your work buddies! I am sure they are all wonderful people, but they could be Petri dishes of viral infections! You love them so much you may touch them from time to time, shake hands and use the same water cooler. This is exactly how the virus spreads. They touch, then you touch.

Hygiene – The take-home message

The take-home message around hygiene is to wash your hands! Use soap and water whenever you can. Please ensure you specifically wash your hands after going out or coming home from work. You can use hand sanitizers whenever you can and of course, this is no substitute for simple good hygiene. Remember, you should keep 1.5 meters from people when you are out and about. And take your supplements to keep your immune system firing, just in case you get those microscopic bugs gets through your handwashing regime.

 

REFERENCES:

[i] J Hosp Infect. 2020 Mar;104(3):246-251. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2020.01.022. Epub 2020 Feb 6. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents. Kampf G1, Todt D2, Pfaender S2, Steinmann E2.

[ii] Danese, S., Cecconi, M. & Spinelli, A. Management of IBD during the COVID-19 outbreak: resetting clinical priorities. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41575-020-0294-8

[iii] J Hosp Infect. 2020 Mar;104(3):246-251. doi: 10.1016/j.jhin.2020.01.022. Epub 2020 Feb 6. Persistence of coronaviruses on inanimate surfaces and their inactivation with biocidal agents. Kampf G1, Todt D2, Pfaender S2, Steinmann E2.