What if there were a simple and zero-cost way to reduce the spread of global diseases like coronavirus by 70 percent?
Turns out there is: proper hand-washing.
In a study published in Risk Analysis, researchers examined how often (and how well) people washed their hands in 10 of the world’s leading airports.
Their findings were alarming:
- Only about 20 percent of people in these airports had clean hands (meaning they had washed with soap for about 15 seconds in the last hour).
- Only 70 percent of people wash their hands after using the toilet.
- Of those who do wash, only half do it correctly—using both water and soap, and washing for at least 15 seconds.
Using epidemiological modeling and data-based simulations, the researchers estimated that raising the rate of people that have clean hands at airports from 20 to 60 percent could reduce the global spread of disease by a whopping 70 percent!
This isn’t a new finding. Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization have long recommended proper hand-washing as the most effective way of slowing communicable disease progression.
Since I started focusing on more frequent and thorough hand-washing myself a few years ago, I’ve definitely had fewer colds and flus.
So, with this in mind, here are a few tips for ensuring good hand hygiene:
- Wash your hands with both soap and water for at least 15 seconds. This is a lot longer than most people do—it’s about the amount of time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
- If you’ve been out and about, get in the habit of washing your hands when you arrive at your destination. If you’re traveling by air, wash your hands after you get through security.
- Antibacterial hand sanitizer is not only unnecessary, it’s not recommended because it can disrupt the skin microbiome and, theoretically, contribute to antibiotic resistance. That said, if you don’t have access to soap and water, it’s better to use hand sanitizer than not do anything at all.
I hope this helps to keep you and your loved ones healthier for the remainder of cold and flu season!