From a very young age we’ve been told to wash our hands after using the bathroom or before eating/preparing food. While many are aware that this is for hygiene reasons, did you know exactly how important is it to practice proper handwashing behaviour?
Our hands are natural breeding ground for germs. Nearly 80% of infections are spread by hands, hence, practicing good hand washing techniques is one of the easiest and most effective ways of preventing illnesses from spreading. Studies have shown that washing hands regularly with water and soap can reduce diarrhoeal diseases by 50%. This is something that is particularly important in the workplace where large groups of people can catch the same infection.
Imagine picking up a piece of cookie with your bare hand after you’ve touched a contaminated surface. You will then transfer the germs from your hands to the cookie and ultimately to your mouth when you consume the cookie, putting you at risk of of catching gastrointestinal or respiratory infections.
Some of the infections and diseases that can be spread by not practicing good hand hygiene are:
1. Norovirus infections
Norovirus is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans and it can affect people of all ages. It’s transmitted when people don’t wash their hands and worryingly, they can spread very quickly within large groups of people in close area. This is why when one person gets ill, entire households or offices often catch it too.
2. Airborne illnesses
Respiratory illnesses are usually spread via droplets which are breathed, sneezed or coughed into the air by someone who has the illness. While sneezing and coughing help to spread illnesses, poor hand washing techniques are a big culprit as well.
Common respiratory illnesses caused by poor hand hygiene include common cold, influenza, chickenpox and meningitis.
3. Nosocomial infections
We often hear of infections being transmitted in hospitals and this is often due to staff and patients not washing their hands. Naturally there’s a huge amount of infections present in hospitals and if staffs don’t wash their hands between seeing patients or if people with an infection aren’t practicing good hand hygiene, they can very easily pass their illness onto others.
Some of the most common nosocomial infections which can be spread by germs and bacteria on our hands include Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E.coli.
4. Hepatitis A
Hepatitis A is a viral infection which can cause severe symptoms including problems with the liver, jaundice, abdominal pain, fever and fatigue. It’s often spread via food which has been contaminated by people preparing them. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, digesting even microscopic traces of contaminated faecal matter can cause transmission of Hepatitis A.