Washing your hands regularly is always advisable, but when it comes to the cold and flu season or viral outbreaks, it’s even more important to do this. It’s best to wash your hands with soap and water but if you don’t have access to them, hand sanitiser is a good alternative.
In the current coronavirus outbreak, experts advise that cleaning your hands thoroughly is one of the most important things you can do to avoid catching the virus. Hand sanitiser can eliminate up to 99.999 per cent of germs and bacteria. It is also easy to transport, it doesn’t require water, and it’s useful for cleaning your hands on-the-go. In this blog, we look at how your hands can spread germs and how hand sanitiser can help.
What kind of germs are on your hands?
There are many different types of germs that can be found on your hands, with the four main categories being bacteria, fungi, viruses and protozoa. Bacteria is the cause of a range of infections, pneumonia and sore throats, fungi leads to problems with skin in warm or moist areas and can lead to conditions like athlete’s foot, viruses include the likes of the flu, measles and chickenpox, and protozoa is behind problems like nausea, stomach pain and diarrhoea.
Research suggests that the most common types of germs that appear on the hands of the general public are pseudomonas fluorescens/putida, staphylococcus warneri, klebsiella pneumoniae, staphylococcus aureus and enterobacter cloacae. Other prevalent germs found on hands include staphylococcus epidermidis, enterococcus faecalis, staphylococcus hominis, enterobacter agglomerans, acinetobacter lwoffii, enterococcus cloacae, klebsiella oxytoca and pseudomonas aeruginosa.
How many germs are spread on your hands?
Experts have estimated that around 1,500 bacteria live on each square inch of the skin on your hands. Other areas such as between fingers and under fingernails are likely to carry even more. However, it’s important to understand that not all bacteria are bad and some can even benefit our health.
How germs spread through hands
Germs generally spread in four different ways:
Through unclean hands –
Cleaning your hands sufficiently is important, as unclean hands can spread harmful germs. For example, not washing your hands after going to the toilet means that you could pick up germs from other people who used the toilet, the sink or any of the doors. You use your hands when you cough, sneeze, blow your nose or wipe your eyes. If you don’t clean your hands before or after, you could be passing on your germs to someone else via your hands.
Through children –
Children often don’t cover their mouths and noses when coughing and sneezing. Teaching your child good hygiene and helping them to clean their hands frequently is likely to slow the spread of germs.
Through animals –
Animals can carry germs that can cause illness if transmitted to humans so you should take care to keep your pets clean and always wash your hands after handling them.
Through food –
Different foods can contain a variety of different germs. For example, raw meat can carry bacteria and parasites that aren’t completely eradicated until the meat is sufficiently cooked. Even after this point, you will need to be wary of cleaning your hands after handling the meat, as you may pass the germs onto other foods or surfaces.
How many germs are spread in a handshake?
The average person shakes around 15,000 different hands in their lifetime, and as a study stated that around one in five people don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet, it’s easy to see how much of an issue this could be in regards to catching illnesses.
Statistics around the actual number of germs that could be transmitted from hand to hand in a handshake aren’t exact, but as 1,500 germs are said to live on each square inch of your hand, you can imagine how it could lead to a significant spread of germs. Research from Aberystwyth University suggests that fist bumping is more hygienic than hand shaking, as it can pass a tenth of the amount of bacteria.
How long do germs stay on your hands?
In the case of some viruses, the infectious particles on our hands are likely to be gone after 20 minutes. However, some germs can last longer. For instance, certain germs can survive on surfaces for up to 72 hours or even longer. This means that an unclean table, handrail or door could spread germs for a long time.
Does hand sanitiser really kill germs?
If you’re unable to wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, you should look at using hand sanitiser to eliminate germs and bacteria. Experts recommend using hand sanitiser that contains 60 per cent alcohol for maximum effectiveness.
However, many people prefer to use alcohol-free solutions, as alcohol-based products may sting if you have cuts or grazes or people may have an allergy to alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Water-based hand sanitisers are also known for being more gentle on skin, as opposed to alcohol-based hand sanitisers that may make your skin dry after frequent use. Thankfully, gentle alcohol-free solutions that can kill 99.999 per cent of viruses such as Norovirus, Avian and Swine Flu, E.coli, Listeria and Salmonella are available.