How difficult is it to wash your hands efficiently? More difficult that you might think, scientists say.
According to research, the standard method of soap, rubbing your hands together for 20 seconds or so, followed by a rinse, isn’t actually the best way.
Did you know that antibacterial soaps are tied to a public health crisis? It’s true. The fervent use of antibacterial soaps and other antimicrobial products significantly contribute to a growing scourge: antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Antibiotic-resistant disease is a problem that few pay attention to, despite the fact that it’s been a known, growing phenomenon for several decades. It’s now become one of the most serious public health threats of the 21st Century. Antibiotic-resistant infections now claim more lives each year than the “modern plague” of AIDS, and cost the American health care system some $20 billion a year.
According to a 2007 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, more than 18,600 people died from invasive MRSA infections in the United States in 2005. And that’s just ONE antibiotic-resistant bug. The list of resistant microbes is steadily growing.
A Shift in Thinking is Required to Quell Growing Health Threat
It may seem like there’s nothing you, as an individual, can do about the rise in antibiotic-resistant disease, but that’s not true. You’re either part of the solution or part of the problem when it comes to the rampant over-use of antibiotic drugs and antibacterial products.
Drug companies keep pushing the use of antibiotics; doctors keep prescribing these drugs for viral infections they can’t treat; patients keep asking for them for every ill; parents and schools keep insisting on using antibacterial cleansers and wipes; and the food industry keeps injecting them into their livestock, which eventually ends up on your dinner plate…
But you can be part of the solution in each and every one of these scenarios.
You can turn a deaf ear and a blind eye to drug advertisements; you can question your doctor’s prescription; you can resist asking for an antibiotic unless absolutely necessary and appropriate; you can avoid buying conventional farm-raised beef; and you can avoid using antibacterial products in your own home.
The last recommendation in particular is one of the easiest, and it will save you money to boot. Proper hygiene does NOT require you to use harsh antibacterial agents. On the contrary, they can cause far more harm than good, both in the long- and short-term.
Washing your hands is your number one protection against the acquisition and spread of infectious disease. But you do not need to use antimicrobial soap to get the job done. Studies have shown that people who use antibacterial soaps and cleansers develop a cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever, vomiting, diarrhea and other symptoms just as often as people who use regular soaps.
Part of the reason for this is because most of these symptoms are actually caused by viruses, which antibacterial soaps can’t kill.
But even for symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea, which may be caused by bacteria, those who used regular soaps still had no greater risk than those who used antibacterial products. So, the rational conclusion is antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary for the purpose of washing away bacteria.
A 2007 systematic review published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases confirmed that antibacterial soap containing triclosan did not provide any additional benefit compared with a non-antibacterial soap.
“The lack of an additional health benefit associated with the use of triclosan-containing consumer soaps over regular soap, coupled with laboratory data demonstrating a potential risk of selecting for drug resistance, warrants further evaluation by governmental regulators regarding antibacterial product claims and advertising.”
There have been no changes made to the claims products are allowed to make, or how they’re allowed to advertise these products, but why wait for federal regulation that may or may not come? It’s been repeatedly shown that washing your hands with plain soap and water can kill germs that cause:
- The common cold
- Hepatitis A
- Acute gastroenteritis
- Stomach infections such as salmonella, campylobacter and norovirus
- Other contagious illnesses and surgical wound complications, including MRSA
Proper Hand Washing Technique
However, it’s important to use proper hand washing technique. To make sure you’re actually removing the germs when you wash your hands, follow these guidelines:
Also remember that your skin is actually your primary defense against bacteria, not the soap, so resist the urge to become obsessive about washing your hands. Over-washing can easily reduce the protective oils in your skin (especially in the winter and dry desert environments) and cause your skin to crack—offering easy entry for bacteria and viruses into your body.
Instead, simply wash your hands when they look dirty, and prior to, or after, performing certain tasks that could spread infection, such as in these instances:
- Before and after preparing food, especially when handling raw meat and poultry
- Before eating
- Before and after treating wounds or taking/giving medicine
- Before touching a sick or injured person
- Before inserting contact lenses
- After using the toilet or changing a diaper
- After touching an animal, its toys, leashes, or waste
- After blowing your nose or coughing/sneezing into your hands
- After handling garbage or potentially contaminated waste
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This article is not intended to take the place of a competent nutritionist or doctor. It is solely intended to educate people on the vital and perhaps underestimated importance of this nutritional element.
The information in this site is presented for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose or prescribe.
In the event the reader uses the information for his own health, he is in fact prescribing for himself, which is his own constitutional right, and for which the author assumes no responsibility.
If you suffer from a medical condition, consult your doctor. If you have questions as to the application of this information to your own health, you are advised to consult a qualified health professional.