Friday, February 25, 2011


This winter one of my greatest goals in life is to keep us healthy.  Washing our hands is one of the very most, if not THE most, important way to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.  Antibacterial soap has soared in recent popularity.  However, it is really a myth that you need a good antibacterial soap.  For one reason, many infections are caused by viruses, which are immune to antibiotics and antibacterial soaps.  Here are a few other myths about handwashing:

Myth: The use of any soap is better than plain water in handwashing.

Soap isn't designed to kill bacteria. It acts as a surfactant to lift dirt off of surfaces so it can be rinsed away.

Myth: Hot water is better than cold water for effective handwashing.

Scientists with the Joint Bank Group/Fund Health Services Department pointed out that various temperatures had "no effect on transient or resident bacterial reduction." They found no evidence that hot water had any benefit, and noted that it might increase the "irritant capacity" of some soaps, causing contact dermatitis.

Myth: Hand sanitizers kill germs more effectively than soap.

The efficacy of alcohol-based hand-hygiene products is affected by several factors, including the type of alcohol used, concentration of alcohol, contact time, volume of alcohol used and whether the hands are wet when the alcohol is applied. Applying small volumes (i.e., 0.2-0.5 mL) of alcohol to the hands is not more effective than washing hands with plain soap and water.

Myth: Frequent handwashing or use of hand sanitizers promotes healthy skin.

Occupationally related contact dermatitis can develop from frequent and repeated use of hand hygiene products, exposure to chemicals and glove use.

Myth: Wearing gloves replaces handwashing.

Wearing gloves does not eliminate the need for handwashing. Hand hygiene should be performed immediately before donning gloves. Gloves can have unapparent defects or can be torn during use, and hands can become contaminated during glove removal. In addition, bacteria can multiply rapidly in the moist environments underneath gloves.

Myth: Alcohol gels are an effective means to reduce infection.

Alcohols have very poor activity against bacterial spores, protozoan oocysts and certain nonenveloped (nonlipophilic) viruses.

Myth: Soap with triclosan is an effective antimicrobial for handwashing.

A recent study compared an antibacterial soap containing triclosan with a non-antibacterial soap and concluded that the former did not provide any additional benefit. Concerns have been raised about the use of triclosan, because of the development of bacterial resistance to low concentrations of biocide and cross-resistance to some antibiotics.

One last mistake that the majority of people is not washing your hands long enough.  You really need to wash and scrub for at least 20 sec.  We are taught at the hospital I work at to sing Row Row Your Boat or Happy Birthday.  You do not want to go overboard and become obsessive about washing your hands because that can actually strip the natural oils from your skin and actually destroy the protective barrier of your hands, leaving them dry and cracked and open to infection.  However, you should wash your hands:

"when they look dirty, and prior to, or after, performing certain tasks that could spread infection, such as in these instances:

Before and after preparing food, especially when handling raw meat and poultry

Before eating

Before and after treating wounds or taking/giving medicine

Before touching a sick or injured person

Before inserting contact lenses

After using the toilet or changing a diaper

After touching an animal, its toys, leashes, or waste

After blowing your nose or coughing/sneezing into your hands

After handling garbage or potentially contaminated waste "
From Dr. Mercola's hand hygeine article 2/25/11 and  Beckers ASC Review


  1. Well you busted my soap bubble! I live by alcohol gel. Now I guess I will have to remove the pump bottle in my truck console & install a sink!

  2. We're only allowed to use alcohol gel at the hospital 8 times before doing a thorough wash with soap and there are patients with certain bacteria we're not allowed to use the alcohol at all. my book using the gel is a lifesaver with kids especially at grocery stores, playgrounds, and ChickFilA.