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March 2017

4 shocking facts about hand hygiene

Written by Nicole Horne
Cleanliness and Hygiene, Handwashing and 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 practices. 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 up to 40%.

See our article on the facts or fiction - are all bacteria bad to find out more about good and bad bacteria.

Damp hands spread bacteria too

Even if you do wash your hands rigorously 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.

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

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 antibiotic resistance but if simply washing our hands can prevent illness and therefore 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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DID YOU KNOW: 15th October is Global Handwashing Day, an annual opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of proper hand washing habits to help prevent the spread of infection and reduce sickness.

Find out more

If you enjoyed this post, check out our fact or fiction series on health and hygiene issues:

5 second rule
Deep cleaning myths
Does cold weather make you sick?
- You always need to use hand sanitisers
All bacteria are bad

Download your hand hygiene posters

Nicole Horne

Nicole Horne

Nicole is a Digital Marketing Executive at Rentokil Initial Hygiene in Johannesburg. A self-proclaimed germaphobe, her love for hygienic environments and curiosity of all things “beneath the surface” fuels her enthusiasm for writing about the impact of germs in the workplace. She is passionate about creating awareness and sharing her knowledge on the impact of good hygiene practices. Follow Nicole on Twitter and LinkedIn for updates on the the good, the bad and the germy.

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