December is hand washing awareness month. It may sound like a boring topic, but doesn't it seem like everyone is sick around the holidays? My family has had several years where the stomach flu ravaged our household, of course at Christmas. Just when you are the busiest, that nasty cold hits you. So, it's time to get hygienic! If you live in my house of teenagers, you've heard all of this before- wash your hands, don't leave dental floss on the counter, don't take your phone in the bathroom!
Why is this so important? The majority of diseases are spread by touching (80%). Washing your hands a few times a day can reduce the rate of GI illnesses by 40 %. Remember the Christmas when everyone had the stomach flu? I spent one lovely Christmas Eve on the bathroom floor. Touching your face with dirty hands spreads pneumonia, colds and the flu.
It turns out that less than 75% of women and less than 50% of men wash their hands after using the bathroom. This is the most important time to wash your hands! The ideal amount of time to spend washing your hands is 30 seconds. It's better to use disposable towels than reusable cloth towels after using the bathroom. Studies show that people who regularly wash their hands have 24% less sick days due to respiratory illnesses and 51% fewer sick days due to gi illnesses.
You can use hand sanitizer, but hand washing remains the gold standard as it not only kills germs, but it also removes dirt, debris and germs from your hands. Hand sanitizer kills many germs, but not all germs, especially those that cause gi illnesses. If you have to use hand sanitizer, make sure it contains at least 70% alcohol.
Keep healthy over the holidays! Wash your hands people!