Soap and water equals germ killing. Seems pretty obvious and basic, doesn't it? Yet consider that there were no hand washing guidelines set until the 1980s. While centuries of hand washing were directed at general hygiene and religious ceremonies, it wasn't until the 1880s that doctors connected infection rates in hospital patients to hand washing procedures.
Doctors were going from autopsies to delivery rooms and while most washed their hands, they weren't using strong enough cleansers and actually had foul odors on their hands. Of course, we know today about germs and the critical role of hand washing in combating illness and disease. However, there is a proper science to it and most don't know it.
According to recent studies, including one published in 2013 by researchers from Michigan State University, while the majority of people do wash their hands in the restroom, only 5 percent do so according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention standards.
In other words, 95 percent of people do not wash their hands well enough to prevent spreading germs. Eww!
Proper hand washing techniques involve: wet hands under warm or cold running water, and turn off the faucet. Lather hands with soap thoroughly, both sides of hands, between fingers and under nails. Scrub for 20 seconds minimum (or enough to sing "Happy Birthday" through twice), rinse hands well and then dry them with a clean towel or allow them to air dry.
In a pinch with no soap and water available? Use hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol. Proper hand washing keeps people from spreading germs, which is especially important when caring for babies and children.
Well, sometimes it's just obvious, such as when kids come inside after enjoying a nice afternoon of toad-catching and mud pie-making. But there are plenty of times people tend to forget. Of course it's critical to wash after using the bathroom. However, if a person enters a public restroom just to check the mirror, hand washing should still happen.
There are likely germs on the door knob or handles. Whenever food prep is going on it's key to wash hands before preparing food, throughout the cooking process especially when handling meats and fresh produce, and after finishing cooking. If caring for someone who is sick it's important to wash hands before helping them, as well as afterwards.
Of course, taking care of kids, such as helping them toilet, or changing baby's diaper, involves washing hands both before and after such activities. When a person sneezes, coughs or blows nose, hand washing should come next. If taking out garbage, it's imperative to wash hands right after.
Families love them, but any contact with pets, pet water, food or treats or other items requires us to cleanse our hands.
One particularly unpleasant illness that can be passed through improper hand washing techniques is the foodborne illness, Salmonella. According to the CDC, there are more than a million cases of this illness annually in the US, causing 19,000 people to be hospitalized. Worse yet, of those 1 million plus cases, 450 end in death.
Salmonella is contracted by eating undercooked meat or eggs, or drinking unpasteurized milk. It can also be caught by eating something that came in contact with raw meat. Parents should never stop handling raw poultry, eggs or meat and then care for baby, especially diaper changing or feeding.
Children are the most vulnerable to salmonella, and one great way to prevent it is through breastfeeding. One lesser known transmission source is handling reptiles such as turtles, snakes, lizards and iguanas. Symptoms usually set in about within 12 to 72 hours after becoming infected and include abdominal cramps, diarrhea and fever.
The illness lasts a few days to a week on average, and in most cases doesn't require treatment. Serious cases, however, may require IV treatment, antidiarrheals and antibiotics. Rarely, a person can get reactive arthritis from Salmonella.
E. coli is a bacteria that causes E. coli enteritis, a swelling in the small intestine. While this bacteria is found in animal and human intestines normally, it can cause food poisoning and illness. It can spread to food through contact with animal intestines and meat and poultry during processing.
Improper hand washing while handling food, improper storage of food, or contaminated food prep areas. It can also be spread through contact with a person who didn't wash hands as needed. Other methods of getting E. coli include well water that's been contaminated, undercooked foods, and raw produce that hasn't been washed.
The symptoms usually can be seen within a day to a few days later, and include decreased appetite, fever, gas and abdominal cramping. Serious but rare symptoms include pale skin that is easily bruised, and decreased urine which may be red from blood. Most cases require no treatment, but rare cases result in hospitalization due to serious dehydration and even kidney failure.
In the UK this virus is known as the winter vomiting bug, so that tells a significant part of the story. Many people have never heard about this illness until it crippled a number of cruises ships with sickened passengers and crew, requiring a thorough clean up and return to port.
However, this illness is quite common, making up half of all foodborne illness outbreaks. It's also the most frequent cause of diarrhea in both adults and children. Commonly people will refer to such sickness as a stomach flu, which is a misnomer since it isn't a flu, at all.
Noroviruses are tough bugs and can survive in a variety of settings, including in water and on surfaces even in extreme temps. It can be caught by ingesting contaminated foods and drinks. You can also get it from touching a surface that was touched by food with the illness, then touching your face, nose or mouth.
If a person gets infected, that person can pass it along by way of food utensils, or sharing food or handshakes.
One way this nasty bug is spread is by people not washing their hands properly. Other ways to prevent its transmission is by washing toys and children's objects, as well as making sure pools are chlorinated. The virus often appears as a run of the mill cold, with stuffy or runny noses, cough and sore throat.
Adenovirus may attack the eyes causing bleeding, which look horrendous but doesn't impair vision. It may affect the stomach, causing cramping and diarrhea, or it may land in the bladder leading to blood in the urine. Some cases attack the brain and cause encephalitis or meningitis.
Usually, treatment is bed rest, fluids and maybe acetaminophen for discomfort. No cure is available for viruses. Thankfully, most illnesses resolve in a few days, though coughs and eye infections can linger longer. Transmission is through person-to-person contact, via sneezing, coughing, getting the virus on hands and touching, or through bad bathroom hygiene.
Hand-foot-mouth disease sounds pretty icky, and honestly, it is. This one should inspire rigorous hand washing in all parent! The good news is that while it looks like a plague of sorts, it's actually a fairly mild illness. People catch it via the coxsackievirus (real name) and improper hand washing.
It causes a catalogue listing of symptoms and if affected a person might get all or only some of them. These symptoms include: sore throat; feeling unwell overall; fever; reduced appetite; painful red blisters in the mouth including the tongue, gums and cheeks; a rash that's red but not itchy which commonly shows up on the palms, soles of the feet, and sometimes the buttocks.
The incubation period is 3 to 6 days and begins with a fever most times and sore throat, followed by mouth blisters a couple days later. If the rash happens it will be a couple days after the blisters. Treatment is just comfort measures such as acetaminophen.
Hepatitis A is also known as infectious hepatitis, and is an inflammation of the liver caused by a virus. This form of hepatitis is the most common kind found in children. The yuck factor here is that the virus is found in the stool of affected people, so it's spread from bad toilet hygiene and bad or no hand washing.
The virus is found on objects, like doorknobs, in diapers, on counter tops, and then can infect people. People get the virus from ingesting anything that became contaminated with the virus, or from eating water, milk or foods (particularly shellfish) that are contaminated. This type of hepatitis does not cause liver damage, and often goes without real symptoms in children.
If there are some, they would consist of vomiting and diarrhea for a short period. Rarely, cases can go on for several months. If traveling internationally, children may need immunizations for it.
This microscopic parasite is found in areas with poor sanitation and unclean water. However, it can infect hot tubs, swimming pools, streams and lakes, as well as person-to-person contact and through contaminated food. Symptoms include bloating, stomach ache, nausea and watery diarrhea or greasy, loose stools.
However, some people never develop symptoms, and may pass along giardiasis without knowing it. The illness can last up to several weeks, but abdominal side effects can linger. Many drugs can help, but the best way to deal with this bug is to never catch it in the first place!
Hand washing is the main prevention tool people have to combat this icky parasite. Also, if traveling somewhere with sketchy water supplies, parents should opt for bottled water. Also, water can be boiled to render it safer.
Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection that is contracted by ingesting food or water contaminated with the bacteria. While its incidence in the US is fairly low, with approximately 400 cases each year. Those are mostly in people who recently traveled to Mexico or South America.
This is in stark contrast to the number of cases elsewhere in the world, with 21 million people getting typhoid annually. It's tied to poor sanitation. If traveling to a country where typhoid is common, vaccinations are important. The symptoms of typhoid include lingering high fevers, pain in stomach and head, loss of appetite, and rarely internal bleeding and death.
Parents traveling to high risk places, even without children, need to be vigilant about hand washing and being cautious about drinking water, food prepared with water and fresh fruits and vegetables. It's a low risk disease here, but with contact with an infected person it's possible. Washing hands thoroughly can save a person from serious illness.
Pink eye, or conjunctivitis, is a general term referring to inflammation of the lining of the eyelid and whites of the eye. If it's caused by allergies it is not contagious. However, those cases caused by either a virus or bacteria are highly contagious.
Often the first symptoms include burning, itchy and watering eyes. They may appear bloodshot, or become gunked up with mucus which can cause eyelids to sort of stick together especially when waking. There may be a crusty, gritty sensation, or becoming sensitive to light. Treatment may not be necessary, but if a child is in school or daycare, it will usually be required to see a doctor.
Antibiotic drops are the normal treatments, but it may take a few days for the infection to clear well enough to return to school. Preventing pink eye is centered on good and frequent hand washing, keeping the infected person's hands away from eyes, not sharing washcloths or towels, washing pillowcases more often, and staying away from the pool.
Well, this may be one of the yuckiest of the illnesses to be spread due to poor or absent hand washing. Pinworm is an intestinal infection that affects millions each year, but is most prevalent in school-aged kids. It's caused by very small parasitic worms, of the roundworm variety, that doesn't actually sicken the victim but makes them have a terribly itchy anus.
The worst part is knowing how a person becomes infected. People ingest the microscopic pinworm eggs by touching an infected surface. This could be a towel, bedsheets, clothing (particularly underwear and pj's), things in the bathroom, tables, chairs, desks, dishes and silverware, toys or sandboxes.
If someone touches a contaminated surface, then touch food, their mouths and so forth, the tiny eggs travel down into the digestive system where the eggs actually hatch and journey to the intestine. Later adult females travel on down to the anus, lay eggs and when those hatch it causes that terrible itching.
Someone scratches the itch and spreads the illness. Eww! It's not something that only affects "dirty" people. It's easily diagnosed; just check the child's bottom a couple hours after bedtime and tiny white threads (worms) will be visible. Antiworm medicine, plus religious hand washing, and careful laundering should keep the worms from spreading through the household.
Cytomegalovirus or CMV is a common virus related to chicken pox that affects half of all adults by age 40. It rarely causes symptoms which is one reason it is so easily spread. According to the Mayo Clinic, having meticulous hygiene is the best way to prevent it. Those at highest risk are those in healthcare.
To prevent CMV parents should wash hands often, especially after contacting saliva, drool, tears or changing diapers. This is most true for children in daycare. Don't kiss baby's tears, lips or have direct contact with saliva. Parents should be cautious when disposing of tissues, diapers and other such items, and should avoid sharing food and drinks, or dishes.
Clean toys and baby's items often. Mothers can infect their newborns at birth, or through breastmilk, but most often testing has been done to check on mother's status prior to delivering baby.
Shigellosis is a bacterial infection that attacks the lining of the intestines, which is as pleasant as it sounds. It begins with an infected person, who has the bacteria in his or her stool. If germs are transmitted anywhere due to improper hand washing, other people can get the illness from its transmission to food, water or surfaces.
If any of the bacteria finds its way to a person's mouth, they will more than likely contract the illness. Shigellosis isn't the most common of these kinds of illnesses, but they are seen more frequently in daycare centers. Symptoms usually show up a few days after becoming infected, and include fever, abdominal pain and cramping, pain in the rectum and watery diarrhea, as well as nausea and vomiting.
It's treated with first off, treating any resulting dehydration through drinking electrolyte solutions. Anti-diarrheals aren't recommended because they can actually prolong the infection. Should serious dehydration occur, IV treatment may be required. Antibiotics may speed recovery and help prevent spreading the infection to others.
When children get shigellosis one serious complication is the nervous system being affected, and this happens to about 10 percent of kids with it. This can cause seizures along with other related problems. Hand washing is key to prevention.
Staph infection's formal name is staphylococcal aureus, and it is a bacterial type of infection that can affect skin and lungs, cause food or blood poisoning. Most often staph infections are skin related and look like pimples or boils. They can be red, hot and painful, and may have pus or swelling.
It's easier to get staph infection if the skin is broken providing an easier entrance for the bacteria. If cuts or wounds are exposed to the bacteria, a person can get infected. Treatment is generally with antibiotics orally, but a more serious or aggressive infection may require IV antibiotic treatment.
The absolute best way to prevent getting a staph infection and spreading it to your children is hand washing.
Lately, superbug type staph infections have made the news. These MRSA infections (methicillin resistant staphylococcal aureus) are much more difficult to treat because they don't respond to typical antibiotics.
Kissing disease sounds sweet, but it's just the common name for mononucleosis an illness typically caused by the Epstein-Barr virus. Most people contract EBV at some point in their lives, and it's a herpes virus not unlike chicken pox and other related illnesses. Like those, EBV stays in a person's body for a lifetime.
It usually is just hanging out in there, but sometimes after multiplying in the body it can be spread via saliva or other bodily fluids. Most often mono affects people between 15 and 30 years of age. If a child has symptoms with the illness, they include sore throat, fatigue and fever, as well as swollen lymph glands.
Serious cases may include chills, sensitivity to light, swollen eyes, lowered appetite and anemia. Normally the illness take a few weeks to subside, although fatigue may go on even longer. Treatment is most often just making symptoms less severe, like gargling salt water or taking pain relievers. Washing hands and not drinking or eating after others are best preventative measures to take.