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To Stay Healthy this Fall and Winter? Wash Your Hands! The Simplest Way

To Stay Healthy this Fall and Winter? Wash Your Hands! The Simplest Way

As summer turns to fall, lots of people (children and adults alike) will be spending more time inside and in closer proximity to one-another. Washing your hands is something simple we can all do to keep our schools, workplaces and homes just a little bit healthier. In fact, it’s actually been identified by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases.

But researchers at Michigan State University recently found that only about 1 person in 20 actually washes his or her hands properly in even the most obvious hand washing scenario—after using a public restroom. According to a summary by writer Lindsay Abrams of the Atlantic:

“Of 3,749 people observed leaving the bathrooms, 66.9 percent used soap, while 10.3 percent didn’t wash their hands at all. The other 23 percent of people stopped at wetting their hands, in what the researchers, for some reason, call “attempted washing” (as if maybe those people just weren’t sure how to follow through). Although the researchers generously counted the combined time spent washing, rubbing, and rinsing, only 5.3 percent of people spent 15 seconds or longer doing so, thus fulfilling the requirements of proper handwashing. They average time spent was 6 seconds.

Why Hand Washing?

Bacterial and viral infections can be spread when the hands come into contact with infectious respiratory secretions and carry them elsewhere. This happens most often as a result of someone coughing, sneezing, shaking hands, or touching an object that has been in the proximity of a sick person and then touching the face—particularly the nose, mouth or eyes. This is one of the primary ways of transmitting the virus that causes the common cold.

Washing your hands after using the toilet or changing a diaper is of utmost importance, as the ingestion of even the smallest amount of fecal matter can cause serious illness from deadly pathogens such as E. coli, salmonella, giardiasis and hepatitis A, among others. You should also be particularly careful about washing your hands after touching garbage, handling animals or animal waste, visiting or caring for an ill person, or if your hands show visible dirt.

Those who handle food should routinely wash their hands, not only after using the toilet, but also after touching raw meat, fish or poultry, since the microbes present on uncooked food can cause gastrointestinal infections ranging from mild to severe or even life-threatening.

Perhaps those with the greatest need to wash their hands on a regular basis are healthcare workers. Because they’re constantly exposed to sick patients and patients with weakened immune systems, and since they frequently come into contact with contaminated surfaces, these professionals have a special responsibility. Before the importance of hand washing was widely understood within the healthcare community, millions of people became sick or died from infections passed along on the hands of their caregivers. During the 19th century, up to 25% of women died in childbirth from childbed fever (puerperal sepsis), a disease subsequently found to be caused by the bacteria Streptococcus pyogenes. After hand washing was introduced as a standard practice in the delivery room, the rate of death dropped to less than 1%.

It All Begins With Hand Awareness

Here are the “4 Principles of Hand Awareness”:

  1. Wash your hands when they are dirty and BEFORE eating
  2. DO NOT cough into your hands
  3. DO NOT sneeze into your hands
  4. Above all, DO NOT put your fingers into your eyes, nose or mouth

How to Wash Your Hands the Right Way

To wash your hands properly, you need only two things: soap and clean, running water. If these two things are not available, you can use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has a minimum 60% alcohol content.

Before washing your hands, remove all rings and other jewelry. Using running water, wet your hands thoroughly, then apply enough soap to work up a nice lather. Keeping your hands out of the water, rub them together, being sure to scrub both the front and backs of your hands, including your wrists, and also washing between the fingers and under the nails. Do this for 20 seconds, then rinse completely under the running water. Be sure to turn off the taps with a paper towel rather than your bare hand. According to the CDC, the whole process should take about as much time as singing “Happy Birthday” twice.

But What About Drying?

The Mayo Clinic recently published its own comprehensive review and analysis of every known hand washing-related study produced since 1970. Interestingly, their researchers found that drying hands was a key part of preventing the spread of bacteria. They also concluded that paper towels are better than blowers for this purpose. Here’s some of their reasoning:

  • Most people prefer paper towels to blowers, so they’re more likely to use them.
  • Blowers take too long, encouraging people to wipe their newly-cleaned hands on dirty pants or to skip the step altogether.
  • It takes less energy to manufacture a paper towel than it does to dry hands with a blower.
  • Blowers dry out the skin on your hands.
  • Blowers scatter bacteria three to six feet from the device.

As chiropractic physicians, we have a special interest in helping our patients (and non-patients, for that matter) avoid illness and injury. This means helping them develop healthy lifestyle habits—like regular hand washing—that prevent disease. We also work closely with them in areas like diet, exercise, sleep and stress management. If you’d like to learn more about what we can do to help you stay healthy and live your life to its fullest, please call or visit our office today!


Chiropractic Care and the 2014 Winter Olympics

Chiropractic Care and the 2014 Winter Olympics

2014-olympics-200-300The 2014 Winter Olympics are underway! There have already been some amazing spectacles, and we’re all hoping for the games to continue without any serious injuries or disruptions. It’s a great opportunity for us to admire what the world’s finest athletes can accomplish. At the same time, it’s also a great opportunity for us to get more insight into how these athletes prepare themselves and to recognize the teams of professionals that help them achieve their dreams.

Chiropractic physicians are onsite in Sochi to help competitors perform at their best and to help them avoid and recover from injuries. Chiropractors have actually been involved in the training of Olympic athletes since the late 1960s, when doctors of chiropractic joined the medical specialists treating and supporting various national teams. Chiropractic became an official part of the Olympic training sports medicine program in 1980. It was offered onsite to athletes for the first time as one of the core services at the Polyclinic during the London Olympic Games in 2012.

As a healthcare discipline, chiropractic is a perfect “match” for the rigors of Olympic training and competition. These athletes train hard and place demands on their bodies that most of us never imagine. The intense levels of competition place unusual amounts of strain on the musculoskeletal systems of the athletes’ bodies. Many become injured during training, and need periods of recovery and rehabilitation before they can return to training, or to the Games themselves.

Before chiropractic care became an integral part of Olympic training (and the Olympic Games themselves), athletes often had to rely on pain-killing drugs and potentially invasive medical procedures to treat their injuries. With chiropractic care now available, they have a much wider range of options to choose from. Doctors of chiropractic (DCs) are able to bring injured athletes back to health—and to help keep them healthy—during training and competition with using drugs or surgery.

Michael Reed, a chiropractor and the Team USA Medical Director for the 2012 Games, said about inclusion of chiropractic services at the Polyclinic in London, “This is an historic event not only for the chiropractic profession, but also the athletes who will now have access to the care that will help them prepare their bodies for competition. These athletes train hard and endure significant physical demands. Sports-focused DCs, along with other members of the sports medicine team, are specially skilled to assist them in reaching peak performance.”

The staff of the Sochi Polyclinic (a huge complex that provides 24-hour medical services to the athletes) similarly contains a number of DCs, who will be working alongside medical doctors, sports medicine specialists, and therapists to keep the athletes of all participating countries healthy… and participating. As William Moreau, DC, Managing Director of Sports Medicine for the U.S. Olympic Committee says, “The athletes who comprise Team USA are the hardest-working, hardest-training and most amazing people I’ve ever treated. The athletes we see are akin to BMW racing machines; their joints and muscles are so finely tuned that small differences make notable changes.”

Dr. Moreau will be onsite at the Sochi Games supervising a staff of 28 physicians, 6 of whom are doctors of chiropractic. Of course, chiropractors will also be present on the national medical teams supporting other countries’ athletes. It’s nice to know that all the athletes participating in Sochi will be in very good hands!