A MEDICAL MIRACLE IN YOUR HANDS
What would you say about a medical intervention that’s miraculous for preventing colds and the flu? It’s so easy even a child can do it. It has almost no risks and it’s practically free.
Sounds like one of those ridiculous snake oil claims too good to be true, but this is the real deal. What is it? It is washing your hands.
Low Tech, but Effective
Washing your hands is the single most important thing you can do to keep yourself healthy, especially during cold and flu season. Even though it’s not high-tech, it’s highly effective.
Every surface that you touch, from counters to door handles to books to money, teams with bacteria and viruses. Many viruses live for long periods of time on a dry, warm surface. As you touch these surfaces, the germs adhere to your hands. When you touch you nose or mouth or rub your eyes, you transport the germs into an environment that is perfect for them to grow and multiply.
Hand washing with soap and water removes the viruses and bacteria from the surface of your hands. It is very effective at preventing diseases transmitted by germs.
Not Everyone Washes Their Hands
Ask anyone you know and they will tell you they wash their hands. But do they?
A group of researchers from Wirthin Worldwide performed an experiment sponsored by the American Society of Microbiology. First, Wirthin surveyed over 1,000 people on the telephone. Over 95% of people said they wash their hands after using a public restroom.
The researchers then parked themselves with clipboards in airport bathrooms and observed over 7,500 patrons. Up to 30% never even went near the sink. Could this explain why travelers get those colds?
Hand washing as infection prevention is a relatively modern idea. During the Civil War, more lives were lost to infection than on the battleground. In 1847 Dr. Ignac Semmelweis, a Hungarian obstetrician, made a revolutionary recommendation. At that time, one in four women whose babies were delivered by doctors at a hospital in Vienna died of childbed fever.
He observed that the death rate was highest among women whose doctors who did internal exams on them after working in the morgue. He concluded that the doctors were carrying some sort of particle, now understood to be bacteria, which they transmitted to their patients. After doctors routinely washed their hands in chlorine solution before delivering children, the death rate dropped from 25% to below 1%. Dr. Ignac Semmelweis’ recommendation saved millions of lives.
Hand Washing, the Ritual
Surgeons have elevated hand washing into a ritual that’s as complex as a formal tea ceremony. You don’t need to do that; just rub soap on your hands for the amount of time it takes to sing the ABC song.
Skip the antibiotic soap. Bacteria divide quickly and reshuffle their DNA to create another strain of bacteria resistant to the soap that’s even more capable of making you sick. And most colds and flu are caused by viruses, which antibiotic soaps will not affect.
Correct Way to Wash Your Hands
Wash Before You:
Wash After You:
Whether or not you get the flu vaccine this year, make sure to take advantage of this medical miracle that’s in your hands.