The Killing Touch …
“Touches” of Illness Surrounding You Everywhere
Most Americans know that kissing is off limits when they’re sick if they want to avoid spreading the germ to others, but most do not think twice about shaking hands. This seemingly innocent gesture is actually a key way that germs are spread … and is actually a greater risk to passing on an infection than sharing a kiss!
You’re more likely to get sick from sharing a handshake than sharing a kiss!
With cold and flu season upon us, and superbugs like MRSA and C.diff on the rise, it’s imperative that you know how to lessen your risks of the “killing touch” — and how it can lead to disease and illness.
We’re All Potential Disease Carriers
Your hands may look clean but lingering on their surface are countless organisms, many of which can make you sick. How do these organisms get there? Many are picked up throughout your day as you open doors, use pens, type at your computer, or use an ATM or even a shopping cart.
Cold viruses linger on such surfaces, and countless others, for 18 hours or more. And research from the University of Virginia Health System found that 35 percent of surfaces touched by unwashed hands — and that jumped to 50 percent in hotel rooms — contained traces of rhinovirus, which accounts for many cases of the common cold in adults and kids each year.
Thirty-five percent is a lot of surfaces … and that is only referring to one type of disease-causing organism. University of Arizona environmental microbiologist Charles Gerba, PhD said on LittleAbout.com:
“If I put my hand on a surface, I could pick up the cold virus that you left there. Surfaces are really important to cold transmission. You literally pick up colds all the time. We’re not just talking about colds and flus. Some of the other illnesses you can get are diarrhea, infectious hepatitis, fevers, and hand foot and mouth disease.”
Gerba and colleagues at the University of Arizona, who tested over 800 public surfaces in four U.S. cities, found one out of every five surfaces in places like shopping centers, offices, day care centers and airports are contaminated.
As for the top 10 germiest places, the researchers identified the following, were germs are able to survive anywhere from just a few hours to a few weeks:
2. Bus rails/armrests
3. Public bathrooms
4. Shopping cart handles
5. Escalator handrails
6. Chair armrests
7. Vending machine buttons
8. Shared pens
9. Public telephones
10. Elevator buttons
Americans touch about 300 different surfaces every 30 minutes, so that’s a lot of germ exposure.
Your Home is Also a Germ Haven
Anytime you touch a surface, you run the risk of contracting an illness, and this is not only the case in public areas. Why? Because as soon as you get home you transfer those germs into your house.
In fact, when the University of Arizona researchers set out to find how easily germs are transferred from one spot to another, they found some disturbing results. They artificially contaminated surfaces with an invisible fluorescent dye then tracked the dye’s path over the course of several hours.
People commonly picked up the fake “germs” from doorknobs, telephones and other surfaces, and they spread quickly to people’s faces, hair, desktops, pens, computer keyboards and other personal items.
From there, the germs spread to people’s cars and into their homes, ending up on kitchen appliances, faucets and remote controls.
“The houses lit up like Christmas trees,” said Dr. Kelly Reynolds, the study’s lead author.
Every time you touch your eyes, nose or mouth you run the risk of getting sick.
In a separate report, U.S. and UK researchers concluded that hand hygiene in your home is essential to avoiding infectious diseases. As EurekAlert reported, the researchers noted 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.”
This is because once germs are on your hands, they are easily transferred inside your body if you touch your eyes, mouth or nose — something most of us do unconsciously numerous times a day.
As EurekAlert reported on the American Journal of Infection Control report:
“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.”
How to Avoid Picking Up Germs: Why Are There Problems With Hand-Washing and Hand Sanitizers?
Germs are literally everywhere, so unless you’re planning to walk around donning a pair of rubber gloves it’s inevitable that you’ll get some on your hands. The key is to get the germs off your hands before you reach up and touch your face, mouth, eyes, nose or ears …
Hand-washing is one way to do this and has been proven to be the best way to get disease-causing viruses off of your hands.
But there are a couple of problems with hand-washing that must be addressed. First, if you wash your hands too often, you may actually dry out and damage your skin – and your skin is actually the best defense against invading viruses. If your dry hands crack or have other tiny abrasions from excessive hand-washing, it will allow an entry point for viruses.
Second, hand-washing is not always convenient or possible. For instance, if you shake hands with a colleague or go grocery shopping, it’s not possible to wash your hands right away and you may end up touching your eyes, nose or mouth before you do, providing another entryway for viruses.
Hand sanitizers, though convenient and portable, are also potentially problematic. First, it’s estimated that hand sanitizers keep your hands clean for only two minutes. While most people believe the products keep germs away from an hour or more, this is wishful thinking. In reality, your hands will likely be dirty again in just minutes.
There is some concern that these antibacterial liquids may limit children’s exposure to germs, to the point their immune systems are negatively impacted.
Further, hand sanitizers, including one of the leading brands, Purell, have been given a seven out of 10 score for toxicity (with 10 being the highest hazard) by the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database. According to Skin Deep, ingredients in Purell Hand Sanitizer are linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, allergies, reproductive toxicity and more.
A Portable, Quick, and Extremely Effective Solution …
For times when you can’t get to a sink every time you touch a new public surface or have been washing your hands to the point they are getting dry and cracked, antimicrobial microfiber hand wipes are a perfect solution.
How to Use Microfiber Hand Wipes
- Place in your pocket or purse. Wipe and rub your hands and fingers thoroughly after you come into contact with people through handshakes or when you touch surfaces that others have touched.
- Clean surfaces using Hand Wipes from your car steering wheel and doorknobs, to all the various surfaces throughout your home and office.
- Use these wipes to clean anywhere others touch: on your desktop, telephone, keyboard, door knobs & door frames, chair-arms/back, mirror surfaces, file cabinets, other office furniture and other large surfaces. Can be used dry or lightly dampened. They are capable of “trapping and removing” up to 99.99% of bacteria from hard surfaces throughout your home and workplace.
- Wipe frequently touched areas once per day or anytime others visit your office and/or use your office equipment
Antimicrobial Microfibers Work in Your HOME Too!
According to the Centers for Disease Control, keeping your home clean is one of the most effective measures you should take to help prevent health issues, and two of the keys they cite are:
1. Use Preventative Measures
2. Buy the Least Harmful Product Available
Ultramicrofibers reach into microscopic nooks, crannies and crevices on your floors, countertops, furniture and other surfaces and remove everything in their path. No other type of cleaning tool can come remotely close to removing microscopic contaminants that can make you sick!
Remember This OTHER Important Line of Defense
Also you’re pushing your shopping cart through the grocery store, you likely don’t realize that your hands are clasped around one of the worst public places in terms of germs.
According to University of Arizona researchers, shopping carts contained more saliva, bacteria and fecal matter than escalators, public telephones, and even public restrooms!
In the event you are exposed to a germ, your immune system will be your next line of defense. A healthy diet, regular exercise and stress management are all keys to keeping your immune system strong. Further, 70 percent of your immune system is located in your digestive system. This means that if your gut is overrun with bad bacteria, there’s a good chance your immune system will not be functioning at its best.
So, you may want to consider taking steps to balance your gut bacteria, including taking a high-quality probiotic.
This, along with avoiding contact with anyone who is sick, keeping your hands clean, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth if your hands are not clean, will go a long way in keeping you free from infectious agents like cold, flu and other germs this year.
American Journal of Infection Control; 35(2):86-8
International Journal of Environmental Health Research;15(3):225-34.