Have you ever thought about the role that your hands play in transferring germs? In a day, we come into contact with multiple surfaces, many of which may already be contaminated.
We go about our day touching our face, eating food, and so forth – spreading bacteria that can lead to illnesses.
Hand-washing is the easiest and most effective way to prevent cross-contamination. Below are 7 reasons why you should make a habit of hand washing.
1. People don’t wash their hands; do you know where others’ hands have been?
Studies have shown that 60% of all South Africans do not wash their hands with soap and water* and that one in ten people do not wash their hands after using the toilet.
Considering that a single gram of human faeces can contain 10 million viruses and one million bacteria, it’s easy to make the link between unwashed hands and bacteria-laden surfaces like office desks and shared equipment.
2. Sharing is not caring: Avoid cross-contamination
Dr Charles Gerba from the University of Arizona conducted a study in 2002 which concluded that the average desk harbours about 400 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat.
Dr Gerba’s study found that – on your desk at the office – the top 3 bacteria-infested areas were your telephone, followed by your desk then keyboard. Now consider how many times you have borrowed a pen, quickly used your colleague’s telephone, or lent your stapler to an office buddy.
Sharing office equipment seems harmless but you are picking up bacteria from multiple sources, and taking them home to your family. That’s why we also recommend having your office equipment periodically disinfected with a techno-hygiene treatment.
You may also be interested in reading: 6 office hygiene stories.
3. Bacteria can make you ill
Contaminated hands can transfer germs to up to seven separate surfaces; including telephones, desks and keyboards, and these germs can live on a surface for up to 48 hours. This cross-contamination increases your risk of contracting illnesses such as respiratory infections and diarrhoea.
4. Hand-washing saves lives
By washing your hands with soap and water for 30 seconds you are eliminating potentially harmful bacteria and preventing it from spreading.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that 5.9 million children under the age of 5 died in 2015. More than half of these deaths could have been prevented or treated if there was access to simple affordable interventions. Hand-washing is one such intervention as it eliminates harmful bacteria.
5. Hand-washing saves you money!
By washing your hands you are minimising cross-contamination in your home and office which means that you, and your family, are less likely to get sick. This means there are less costly trips to the doctor and the pharmacy.
If you are an employer, promoting good hand-washing habits in the office could also reduce absenteeism, which will keep your productivity constant and reduce work days lost.
6. Community well-being
By practising good hand hygiene, we contribute to the overall health and well-being of our communities. Reducing the spread of infections within a community helps maintain public health and minimises the burden on our healthcare systems.
The recent cholera outbreak in South Africa emerged as a significant public health concern, affecting various communities in Gauteng.
The NICD noted that by promoting regular hand-washing practices, especially before eating or preparing food, individuals can decrease their chances of contracting cholera.
7. Teaching kids proper hand hygiene habits
Teaching kids proper hand hygiene by leading by example is quite effective. Children learn best by observing adults. Demonstrating consistent hand-washing with soap and water before meals and after using the restroom sets a good example.
This practical approach teaches healthy habits that children are more likely to adopt and follow throughout their lives.