Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

If You Don't Want To Fall Ill This Christmas, Then Share A Festive Kiss But Don't Shake Hands

Date:
December 19, 2007
Source:
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Summary:
We've all heard people say 'I won't kiss you, I've got a cold'. But a new report warns that we may be far more at risk of passing on an infection by shaking someone's hand than in sharing a kiss.

We've all heard people say 'I won't kiss you, I've got a cold'. But a report just published warns that we may be far more at risk of passing on an infection by shaking someone's hand than in sharing a kiss.

A group of hygiene experts from the United States and the UK have published the first detailed report on hand hygiene in the home and community, rather than in hospital and healthcare settings. Their findings are published in the American Journal of Infection Control. They say that, if we want to avoid catching flu or tummy bugs, or protect ourselves and others from organisms such as MRSA, salmonella or C. difficile, then we have to start in our own homes, by paying greater attention to good hand hygiene.

They also warn that, in the event of a flu pandemic, good hand hygiene will be the first line of defence during the early critical period before mass vaccination becomes available. This new report follows on from a study published last month in the British Medical Journal which indicated that physical barriers, such as regular handwashing and wearing masks, gloves and gowns may be more effective than drugs in preventing the spread of respiratory viruses such as influenza and SARS.

Good hygiene at home prevents organisms spreading from one family member to another. By reducing the number of carriers in the community, the likelihood of infections being carried into health care facilities by new patients and visitors is reduced. Good hygiene at home also means fewer infections, which means fewer patients demanding antibiotics from the GP, and fewer resistant strains developing and circulating in the community.

Cold and flu viruses can be spread via the hands so that family members become infected when they rub their nose or eyes. The report details how germs that cause stomach infections such as salmonella, campylobacter and norovirus can also circulate directly from person to person via our hands. If we put our fingers in our mouths, which we do quite frequently without being aware of it, or forget to wash our hands before preparing food, then stomach germs can also be passed on via this route. Some of us also carry MRSA or C.difficile without even knowing, which can be passed around via hand and other surfaces to family members or, if they are vulnerable to infection, go on to become ill.

Professor Sally Bloomfield, one of the report's authors, is the Chairman of the International Scientific Forum for Home Hygiene, the international organisation which produced report. She is also a member of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine's Hygiene Centre. She comments: 'With the colds and flu season approaching, it's important to know that good hand hygiene can really reduce the risks. What is important is not just knowing that we need to wash our hands but knowing when to wash them. Preventing the spread of colds and flu means good respiratory hygiene, which is quite different from good food hygiene. That's why the new respiratory hygiene campaign from the Department of Health in the UK, which advises people to "catch it, bin it, kill it", is spot on'.

The authors say that breaking the chain of infection from one person to another all depends on how well we wash our hands. If we don't do it properly, washing with soap and rinsing under running water, then we might as well not do it at all. They recommend also using an alcohol handrub in situations where there is high risk, such as after handling raw meat or poultry, or when there is an outbreak of colds or stomach bugs in the family home or workplace, or if someone in the family is more vulnerable to infection. They suggest carrying an alcohol rub or sanitiser at all times so that good hand hygiene can still be observed away from home in situations where there is no soap and water available.

Carol O'Boyle, of the School of Nursing, University of Minnesota, and a co-author of the report, says: 'Hand hygiene is just as important when we are outside the home - on public transport, in the office, in the supermarket, or in a restaurant. Quite often it's not possible to wash our hands in these situations, but carrying an alcohol-based hand sanitizer means we can make our hands hygienic whenever the need arises'.

The report warns that good hygiene is about more than just washing our hands. Although the hands are the main superhighway for the spread of germs -- because they are the 'last line of defence', surfaces from which the hands become contaminated, such as food contact surfaces, door handles, tap handles, toilet seats and cleaning cloths also need regular hygienic cleaning. Clothing and linens, baths, basin and toilet surfaces can also play a part in spreading germs between family members in the home.

Professor Elaine Larson, of the Mailman School of Public Health in New York and another co-author, says: 'Because so much attention has been paid to getting people to wash their hands, there is a danger that people can come to believe this is all they need to do to avoid getting sick'.

Professor Bloomfield concurs. 'We hear a lot of discussion about whether being "too clean" is harming our immune systems, but we believe that this targeted approach to home hygiene, which focuses on the key routes for the spread of harmful organisms, is the best way to protect the family from becoming ill whilst leaving the other microbes which make up our environment unharmed'.

Dr. Val Curtis, Head of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine's Hygiene Centre concludes: 'Handwashing with soap is probably the single most important thing you can do to protect yourselves and your loved ones from infection this Christmas'.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. "If You Don't Want To Fall Ill This Christmas, Then Share A Festive Kiss But Don't Shake Hands." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 19 December 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071219111654.htm>.
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. (2007, December 19). If You Don't Want To Fall Ill This Christmas, Then Share A Festive Kiss But Don't Shake Hands. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071219111654.htm
London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. "If You Don't Want To Fall Ill This Christmas, Then Share A Festive Kiss But Don't Shake Hands." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071219111654.htm (accessed April 18, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Friday, April 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Scientists Create Stem Cells From Adult Skin Cells

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) The breakthrough could mean a cure for some serious diseases and even the possibility of human cloning, but it's all still a way off. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

Obama: 8 Million Healthcare Signups

AP (Apr. 17, 2014) President Barack Obama gave a briefing Thursday announcing 8 million people have signed up under the Affordable Care Act. He blasted continued Republican efforts to repeal the law. (April 17) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins