Wash your hands
to stay healthy

Whenever commercial breaks on TV become dominated by ads for cold and flu medications, it is a sure sign that autumn is near. This beautiful season brings not only Indian summer, chestnuts and colorful leaves, but also an increased number of illnesses and infections. In keeping with the principle of prevention being better than cure, it is good to observe a few rules, which will minimize the risk of becoming ill. One of them is maintaining proper hand hygiene.

The change in seasons brings about a change in the functioning of the body’s immune system. It is largely caused by the lack of sufficient sun exposure. Sun rays stimulate the production of vitamin D3, which supports the immune system by activating in the body genes responsible for fighting bacteria. Some of them act as natural antibiotics. In autumn, the vitamin D3 concentration in the body decreases, which leads to a wekened disease resistance, and an increased risk of infection. Of course, it is not exclusively the change in weather what makes us sick. To a large extent, we are responsible for this ourselves. At fault are our bad hygiene habits, and, most of all, inadequate hand hygiene. The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated in one of its reports that almost 70 percent of the digestive tract infections are caused by germs residing on our hands. The hands are a veritable “means of public transportation” for bacteria and viruses. Through the hands there can spread, among other, diarrhea-causing rotaviruses and noroviruses, Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, causing skin infections and food poisonings, Salmonella and E. coli bacteria, tapeworm and pinworm eggs. The hands may also carry microorganisms responsible for upper respiratory tract infections.

On average, we wash our hands only a few times per day. This is definitely not often enough, considering that the situations in which our hands come in contact with bacteria are innumerable. It turns out that our homes are veritable breeding grounds for bacteria. Research has shown that the places, where the highest numbers of dangerous bacteria reside, are not toilet bowls and toilet seats, but kitchen countertops, dish-washing sponges and TV remote controls. Fecal bacteria, among other, have been discovered on those items. Disease-causing microbes live also on door handles, light switches, elevator buttons, cabinet and refrigerator handles, and on phones. Large bacteria concentrations have been found also on public transport, in offices, shopping centers, hospitals, playgrounds, on ATMs, coins and banknotes.

Dangerous bacteria lurk everywhere, just waiting to get us. Fortunately, we can effectively defend ourselves. First of all, it is important to regularly wash our hands with soap and water, and if this is not possible, to use hand gels. Routine use of such substances greatly lowers the risk of becoming infected and ill. The simplest way of limiting the risk of dangerous infections is frequent handwashing, not only when the hands are dirty, but also in each situation, when they are exposed to contact with germs. Proper hand hygiene is of great significance to our health. What to do, however, if washing your hands under running water is not possible, e.g. when in a car, on a tram, on a children’s playground, or when taking a walk? The best way to keep your hands clean in all such situations is to use a hand-clensing gel, which does not require any use of water.