Hand hygiene: 5 things dirtier than your toilet seat

Posted on 23 April 2018

Germs and bacteria lie in wait in some unexpected places. Here’s how to find and eliminate them before they sneak up on you with our tips on effective general and hand hygiene. Research shows your hand can host at least 3 000 different bacteria, belonging to more than 100 different species.

1. Hand towels

“Certain bacteria thrive in wet, moist conditions,” says Briette du Toit, Infection Prevention
and Control Officer of Mediclinic Southern Africa. “Most people don’t wash their hands in a way that removes all organic material and dirt, every time. Because these towels are also used by many different people on a daily basis, they can become a breeding ground for micro-organisms.”

Clean upWash your hand towels regularly, and change them daily.

2. Cellphone

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that one in six smartphones is contaminated with faecal matter. (Yikes!)

Clean up“Wipe your phone each day with a disinfectant swab. Don’t take your phone with you into the bathroom, and always wash your hands after visiting the toilet,” advises Du Toit.

“Micro-organisms are everywhere, but if you have a competent immune system, your body will be able to fight them. You can stay safe by washing your hands regularly and thoroughly.”

3. Kitchen sponges

There can be 200 times more faecal bacteria on the average cutting board than on a toilet seat, according to researchers at the University of Arizona. These bacteria are often transferred via raw meat, where a lot of faecal bacteria originate.

Clean upReplace your sponges regularly and dry them properly after use. As an extra measure, include kitchen sponges and brushes in the dishwasher for a thorough clean.

You could have:

100 000 micro-organisms on your forearm

400 000 on your abdomen

5 million in your armpit

10 million on your head

… per square cm.

4. Toothbrush holder

It’s just toothpaste, right? Wrong: this seemingly harmless vessel can harbour a family of micro-organisms, such as Salmonella and E-coli.

Clean up“Don’t store your family’s toothbrushes too close to the basin, as they can be splashed with soap and dirty water, or the toilet, where particles of germs are released in the air after flushing,” says du Toit. “A wall-mounted toothbrush rack to store toothbrushes separately is the best option.”

5. Supermarket trolleys

Supermarkets are crowded spaces with many hands touching and grabbing the same variety of foods, clothes and other items.

Clean up: “Wipe the trolley’s handle before using it, especially during flu season,” Du Toit suggests. “If somebody has sneezed and not cleaned their hands properly, you can become infected if you touch contaminated surfaces or are in close proximity. Clean your hands as soon as you get home, and again before you start preparing food or before you eat.”

The correct way to WASH YOUR HANDS

• Wet your hands with clean, running water.

• Turn off the tap.

• Lather your hands with the soap. Be sure to include the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

• Scrub for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum “Happy Birthday” from beginning to end twice.

• Rinse your hands quickly and well under clean, running water.

• Dry your hands using a paper towel or a clean towel, or air-dry them.

Published in Magazine

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.

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