When I was in chiropractic college, I had a course in micro-biology, which is the study of pathogens like viruses and bacteria. One thing the professor stressed about being healthy and resisting germs was public health. He noted that cultures that had good sewage systems, clean drinking water, refrigeration to keep food fresh, and warm, dry housing were a great firewall against pandemic disease. He also discussed individual micro-activities to perform to minimize the spread of infection.
Currently there is valid concern about the Coronavirus, specifically known as COVID-19. Federal, state and local governments, as well as NIH and the CDC are making concentrated efforts to keep us safe. We can do our parts, individually, to help. One micro-activity we can all participate in is the personal hygiene of washing our hands.
The National Institute of Health reports that handwashing with soap reduces the presence of harmful bacteria by 92%. It has been noted that if everyone routinely washed their hands, over 1 million deaths could be prevented worldwide per year.
Soap doesn’t actually kill bacteria or viruses; it removes them. Most microbial pathogens are found in the skin oils of our body. Soap and water will rinse off the oils containing the germs and removes them.
For this reason, it is not advised to use antibacterial soap. Because soap removes the bacteria, soap can be considered antibacterial. Also, viruses do not respond to antibiotics, so it makes even less sense to use bacterial soap.
It’s important to wash our hands correctly. The Cleveland Clinic advises these steps:
- grab a towel and set it aside
- wash your hands and wrists thoroughly
- apply and lather soap fully
- scrub your hands for a minimum of 20 seconds
- rinse your hands well
- dry your hands thoroughly with the reserved towel
- use the towel to turn off the faucet
If you find that frequent washing of the hands causes skin irritation or cracking of the skin surface it is perfectly fine to use a skin moisturizer after handwashing.
If soap and water are not available, it is all right to use hand sanitizers. However, the sanitizers must contain at least 60% alcohol to be considered effective. Hand sanitizers may not be effective for heavily soiled or greasy hands.
Other micro activities to avoid spreading viruses are to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Also cover any sneezing or coughing with a Kleenex or handkerchief.
Hand washing is a simple, effective way to keep healthy. It only takes 20 seconds of time and may be the best 20 seconds you can spend for taking care of your health and health of others around you.
Brought to you from the North Hills Pittsburgh chiropractic neck and back pain relief office of Dr James Schofield.