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It's Not How Often You Wash Your
Hands, But How Well You Wash Them

With the H1N1 flu pandemic upon us, washing your hands may not be good enough. The fact is, it's not how often you wash your hands but how well you wash them.

Most of you are taking additional steps to stay healthy. Missouri State University Student Wellness Coordinator Gerilyn Reed says that still may not be enough.

“Either they wash real quick or don't wash at all,” she said about her students.

She says not enough people practice proper hand washing technique.

“Usually I just do it quick and don't lather up,” said student Lindsey Geary.

“I think it's more about how often than how well,” said student Lea Huffman.

That’s not true, according to Reed. To prove it, we put five students and their hand washing to the test.

First they rubbed a gel into their hands that only shows up under a black light. We then asked them to wash their hands as they normally do. Most washed for only a few seconds, hardly working up a lather with the soap. Afterwards, the black light easily found all the places they missed.

“You missed your wrist, you missed side of hands, webbing fingers,” Reed told one student.

Even worse was the student whom we asked to rinse with water only - no soap.

“You're nice and orange,” Reed told him afterwards during the black light inspection.

Reeds says, if any of these students picked up the H1N1 flu bug on their hands prior to washing, the germs would likely remain and the students could still get sick.

We had them repeat the process, but not without first teaching them some proper hand washing techniques.

“Wash your hands for a good 20 seconds,” Reed said.

She also told them to be sure to work up a lather with soap and concentrate hard on those easy-to-miss areas.

“A lot of what we saw that lit up is wrists, top of hands, webbing of fingers, finger nails, and calluses. Really work into them to get germs,” said Reed.

Afterwards, the difference was remarkable.

“It looks like you did a lot better in between fingers; that's good,” Reed told one student.

“Definitely a lot better this time than last time,” she told another.

“Second time's a charm on you; good job,” she told a third student.

It’s an important lesson for these students - who thought they were doing enough.

“I didn't realize how much I didn't wash off,” said Geary.

“You need to take time to wash hands. Don't hurry and walk out,” said Huffman.

Reference Source:
September 25, 2009


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