Embrace A “Sudsy” Global Health Solution this Holiday

Although holiday traditions may vary across the world, many are universal.  Children revel in special holiday treats with sticky fingers, grandchildren receive their mandatory smooches from Grandma, and a parade of favorite dishes arrive to be tasted by all.

All of these festive traditions are a part of the fun, but unfortunately they can also lead to someone who came to the party healthy leaving with a sniffle.

There is a simple step we all can do that offers amazing protection – washing our hands.

“Regular and effective handwashing has proven to reduce the spread of contagious diseases. Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of microbes on them. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer,” said Dr. Asa Oxner, of USF Health’s General Internal Medicine.

Hand Washing Practices Around the World
Unfortunately, washing hands in different parts of the world without soap or use of an anti-bacterial aid is a very common practice. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, it is estimated that only 19% of the world population washes hands after using the bathroom. The CDC also suggests that the simple practice of handwashing with soap could help save 1.8 million children under age 5 each year from the serious health threats of diarrhea and pneumonia for young children. In addition, this good hygiene habit developed early in children can aid in child development.

By adopting better handwashing habits, the health of our community would be improved:

  • Diarrhea – Reduces the number of people who contract diarrhea by about 23-40%
  • Respiratory illnesses, like colds – Reduces the number of people who fall sick by about 16-21%
  • Gastrointestinal Illness – Reduces absenteeism in schoolchildren by 29-57%

Be Aware of Germ Hotspots
Germs are transient invisible microorganisms that linger and spread the potential for illness. They are all around us, in the air and on surfaces we frequently touch. We then, unconsciously, touch our eyes, nose and mouth, giving the germs entry points that could make us sick.

“Cold germs can be present for days in an interior space, but typically remain infectious for 24 hours. Some germs are hardier, like the highly contagious norovirus germs, which cause vomiting and diarrhea. They can survive on hard surfaces for days or weeks if conditions permit,” Dr. Oxner said.

Germs can be easily transferred to our hands from public settings by using fixtures, such as handrails and doorknobs. Frequently used objects, like cell phones, keyboards, remote controls and keychains, become portable germ collectors in homes. They can continue to travel and spread to germ hot spots like bathrooms and kitchens, especially kitchen sponges, countertops, and tooth brush holders. Germs can also find their way into food and drinks and actually multiply in certain food preparation conditions.

Now, that you may feel completely creeped out, keep in mind that there are simple ways to interrupt the spread of germs and one of the most effective ways is handwashing. This holiday season, USF Health recommends following these steps to thoroughly wash your hands to actively prevent the spread of germs and stay healthy.

Written By: Kathleen Rogers