Wash_your_hands_poster_CDC_-_Wellbee.jpgI used to date a man who was an obsessive hand-washing-germ-chaser-awayer, especially in airports.  The good news is that we traveled a lot.  The bad is that every time I used a public restroom I got the questions:  “You didn’t touch the flusher?” he asked horrified.  “What about the door?  Did you cover the handle with a paper towel like I told you?  People are gross,” he said. “They don’t wash their hands.”  And on and on and on. 

Well, according to a column in today’s Wall Street Journal, my former paramour was on to something.  Of course I wash my hands after using the restroom, but Melinda Beck breaks it down telling us when, how and why we need to wash our hands.  And even though the swine flu crisis is behind us (for now), she points out there are still lots of good reasons to wash your hands all day long — staph, strep, salmonella, E. coli, hepatitis, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), colds, flu and norovirus (the cruise ship illness).

It also turns out soap and water is the best panacea — more effective than hand sanitizer.  Beck even mentions a study published in the journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases where researchers doused the hands of 20 health-care workers with the H1N1 flu virus and found that soap and water removed more of the virus than alcohol-based hand rubs.

Check out the Center for Disease Control’s guide to keeping your hands clean but please, don’t make yourself crazy.  Lately, I’ve definitely been washing my hands more but I try to experience it as a kind of a hygiene meditation — a chance to slow down for a minute or two and take in the aroma of my favorite Mrs. Meyer’s Geranium liquid hand soap.

Are you washing your hands more often?

[image via: wikimedia commons]

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