According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), washing your hands is the best method for stopping the spread of disease. There are many cases, each year, where people get sick from eating at a restaurant because of some food-borne illness. Many times, the source has been from an infected employee that didn’t wash their hands after using the restroom! Can you imagine a world where everyone washed their hands…properly? The cases of illnesses would go way down!
We have all been taught to wash our hands after using the restroom but what other times should we be washing our hands to help keep down cross contamination? Here are some ideas:
Wash your hands after emptying garbage cans.
Wash your hands after cleaning the bathroom or kitchen.
Wash your hands after wiping a child’s nose or your own, for that matter.
Wash your hands after sneezing or coughing into them.
Wash your hands after changing a baby’s diaper, even if it’s just wet.
Wash your hands before rubbing your eyes or nose.
Wash your hands after shaking hands with someone.
Some of these suggestions may sound a bit extreme or even impossible to follow but let me explain these ideas a bit further.
Garbage is a huge source of germs and microorganisms. Listeria is just one of them. Rotting and decaying food and soiled tissues are just a couple of examples of what is lurking in your garbage. Since listeria has wings and tails, it can easily come into contact with your skin without you even touching the garbage! It can be easily washed off your hands. It only stands to reason that washing your hands after handling garbage and the cans they are stored in is a great way to cut down cross contamination.
Changing a diaper is like using the restroom. The digestive tract is a great source of e.coli. If traces of excretion are left on your hands after changing someone’s diaper, it is likely that you could introduce e.coli, hepatitis, or other serious diseases to your body. That is…if you don’t wash your hands afterwards and go about business as usual. Not only that but you could easily infect someone else and spread the love. That is how a lot of disease is spread! If you don’t have a source of soap and water available, use a hand sanitizer.
Children are a great source of germs. It only stands to reason that wiping a nose of a child or anyone, for that matter, is a great way to come into direct contact with whatever is causing that funny nose. If you don’t bother to wash your hands afterwards and go about your routine, you have just upped your odds of getting sick! You’ve also upped to odds of spreading disease to others, too.
Cleaning the kitchen or bathroom is a great way to come into contact with a lot of different microorganisms that can lead to disease. Just don’t forget to thoroughly wash your hands after completing these tasks. Otherwise, all those microorganisms remain on your hands.
Sneezing and coughing into your hands is similar to wiping a child’s nose. While it may not infect you, it’s a great way to infect others. By washing your hands, it helps cut down on spreading that disease to others. Here’s an additional thought: sneeze and cough into your shoulder or arm instead. It’s actually more effective.
By washing or sanitizing your hands before rubbing your eyes or nose, will cut down on introducing germs into your own system. The eyes, nose and mouth are direct sources for introducing germs and disease into the body.
It is common knowledge that the best way to get a cold is to shake the hand of someone who has a cold! Why? It’s on their hands from blowing their nose and from sneezing and coughing into their hands. Within an hour of them doing any and all of that…without washing their hands…those little microorganisms have multiplied by the thousands and even tens of thousands! That ups the odds of you contracting that cold, especially if you don’t wash and sanitize your hands before touching your eyes, nose, mouth and even eating afterwards.
I realize that there is a common theme developing in this post. Perhaps it is beginning to be a little repetitive. In my experience with being a food safety consultant and living with a spouse that has a suppressed immune system (from being an organ transplant patient), I have had to study ways to stay healthy and cut down the sources of cross-contamination…especially in my own home! These methods are tried and true!
Since we pick up everything with our hands, they are the greatest source of spreading disease to ourselves and others. By taking a step back and pausing to reflect on the many sources of cross contamination, it can become easy to avoid. Washing your hands is the best way to keep healthy!
There are times when soap and water are not available. When that happens, use a hand sanitizer. Sometimes, you may even want to consider using a hand sanitizer in addition to washing your hands. Why? It’s an extra check measure to insure that those little germs are being removed from off of your hands. Besides, most people don’t know how to wash their hands properly. (That’s a different article for a different day!)