Simply put hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infections. The transmission of bacteria is more likely to occur from WET skin than from dry skin, so proper drying (in addition to washing) of hands remains our best defense.
Are all drying methods created equal?
Studies which compared the effectiveness of a variety of hand-drying methods: paper towels, cloth towels, hot air dryers, and shaking hands dry.
Individuals were more likely to spend time under hot air dryers versus using cloth or paper towels to dry hands. But this increased time under hot air dryers (an average of 15 seconds versus 4 seconds for towel drying) did not correlate with increased hand dryness.
- Paper towels reduced the number of all types of bacteria on the hands; but the hot air dryer increased all types of bacteria on the hands. A jet air dryer also increased all types of bacteria, but to a lesser extent than a hot air dryer. Applying friction (rubbing hands together) when using a hot air dryer helped to remove bacteria of all types.
- Jet air dryers were noted to be problematic because they can spread bacteria over large distances in a washroom (up to roughly 6 feet).
- Consumers were found to prefer paper towels for hand-drying (55%) over 25% who selected jet dryers, 16% hot air dryers, and 1% cloth roller towels.
Hand washing and drying are particularly important:
- During cold and flu season
- Anytime you visit a health care facility. Before leaving the premises, be sure to wash your hands
- Before and after food preparation, especially if you’re cooking poultry, raw eggs, meat or seafood. It’s also advisable to wash your hands directly before sitting down to eat
- After you’ve used the restroom, and after each diaper change
- Before and after caring for someone who is ill, and/or treating a cut or wound
Hand washing plays an important role when caring for the elderly.
After years of fending off influenza and other infectious diseases, the immune system gradually starts to lose its oomph for fighting infection. As a result, viruses, bacteria and other microbial intruders are a common killer of adults 65 and older.