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Five shocking facts about hand hygiene

Despite the fact that we all know we should wash our hands after using the toilet, 62% of men and 40% of women don’t actually do it. While we might not think there’s anything wrong with this, these facts about hand hygiene might make you think twice.

80% of diseases are spread by touch

A staggering 80% of communicable diseases are transferred by touch alone which means that they can be easily prevented by implementing proper hand washing techniques. Touching food with contaminated hands for example spreads foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella, E. Coli and diarrheal infection. While diarrhoea remains the second most common cause of childhood death, simple and effective handwashing can reduce diarrhoea rates by 40%.

 Damp hands spread bacteria too

Even if you do give your hands a good scrub after using the bathroom, if you don’t dry them thoroughly afterwards, your efforts could be counter-productive.

Only 20% of us say that we dry our hands after washing which is rather concerning considering that damp hands are 1000 times more likely to spread bacteria than dry hands are.

It’s also important to think about how you’re drying your hands. Re-usable cloths harbour millions of bacteria so try to opt for disposable paper towels or a hand dryer if you can.

Bacteria travels

The problem with not washing your hands is that you then transfer bacteria to everything you touch. You may not think this sounds like a big deal but studies have found:

  • The average kitchen chopping board has around 200% more faecal bacteria on it than a toilet seat does
  • Handbags can carry up to 10,000 bacteria per square inch and 30% of bags tested were found to have faecal bacteria on them
  • Smartphones can carry more than 30,000 bacteria units per swab
  • The average office desk has 400 times more bacteria on it than a toilet seat does
  • The average keyboard can also contain more bacteria than a toilet seat
  • 26,000 live bacteria can be found on the average banknote
  • Touching a handrail on the underground brings you into contact with 5000 hands – many of which are unwashed

It costs the NHS billions of pounds

In the UK, around 300,000 patients contract a nosocomial cross infection (NI) during their stay in hospital. This infection has a mortality rate of 13% and is estimated to cost the NHS as much as £1bn per annum.

Healthcare professionals say that the main route for the transmission of NIs is cross infection via dirty hands or gloves.

Washing your hands can help to fight antibiotic resistance

Washing your hands can prevent around 30% of diarrhoea-related illnesses and approximately 20% of respiratory infections such as colds. Because antibiotics are often prescribed for these health issues, thorough hand washing can help to prevent antibiotic resistance.

Overuse is the single biggest factor causing resistance but if simply washing our hands can prevent illness and the need to take these medicines, it helps to reduce the likelihood that antibiotic resistance will develop. Handwashing can also prevent people from getting sick with germs that are already resistant to antibiotics and are therefore be difficult to treat.

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