Dr Lisa Ackerley’s top tips for healthy hands
“A germ motorway.” That’s how hygiene expert Dr Lisa Ackerley describes your hands. Germs and bacteria are everywhere, too small for the naked eye to see. On our hands alone, the average person carries over 10 million bacteria.
However, it can be easy to forget that millions of bacteria live on the things we touch everyday with our hands when we are rushing around – food, money, telephones, shopping trolley handles, chip and pin machines, public transport and, of course in bathrooms and toilets. Many bacteria are entirely harmless but many are not – and can cause illness ranging from a common cold or skin infection, to severe stomach upsets, diarrhoea and food poisoning.
Dr Lisa has pulled together some tips which highlight some of the important times to remember your hands.
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Hand and Home Hygiene Tips
1. When cleaning your hands remember to pay special attention to your fingertips and nails, as this is where most germs can be found. False or long fingernails are more likely to harbour harmful bacteria than shorter, natural nails because they are longer and are more difficult to keep clean.
2. Be sure to dry your hands properly after washing as harmful bacteria spread more easily on wet or damp hands.
3. Always wash hands after handling raw meat or poultry – people often think it’s only important to wash hands before cooking. Bacteria transferred from things like raw chicken onto hands, knives and chopping boards in our homes lead to 300,000 cases of food borne illnesses each year.
4. Wash your hands or use a hand sanitiser/serum if soap and water are not available before feeding your baby – even if breast feeding, you could put harmful bacteria around your breast as you are preparing to feed.
5. The best way to reduce the spread of germs that cause colds and flu is not to cover your mouth with your hands when coughing or sneezing but use your upper arm or elbow if a tissue is not available. Remember, more germs are spread by shaking hands and touch than kissing!
6. On average, a working adult touches as many as 30 objects every 60 seconds so remember to wash your hands before having lunch, especially if it is a quick bite at your desk!
7. Going to a bar with friends? Think before you stick your hands in a bag of crisps – where were they just before? At a kids playground, walking the dog, on public transport, pushing a shopping trolley are all times to think of your hands.
8. It is estimated that every 3 minutes, a child brings their hands to their nose or mouth so ensure children wash their hands after playing with pets.
9. Recent research has found that mobile phones are covered with up to 18 times more living bacteria than the flush handle on a men’s lavatory! Something to think about when you are out and about calling or texting friends and family.
10. Remember, the best way to keep hands germ-free – as it has always been – is good old soap and water. But, as we all know soap and water aren’t always at hand. Using a hand hygiene products helps protect your hands from harmful bacteria when you are out and about. If you use a public restroom for example, you don’t know what the last person who flushed the toilet has for hygiene habits. The only way to protect yourself from other people’s bad habits is to stick to your own good ones. Research has shown that good hand hygiene has the potential to reduce the risk of diarrhoeal disease by up to 47% and save a million lives worldwide!
About Dr Ackerley
Dr Lisa is a Consultant in Food and Environmental Hygiene and a Visiting Professor of Environmental Health, Salford University. She is a Chartered Environmental Health Practitioner.
Dr Lisa has worked with TV and local and national radio, including BBC Watchdog, and most recently, as the food safety expert on BBC1 Rogue Restaurants, a spin-off of Rogue Traders, with Matt Allwright and Anita Rani. Dr Lisa is the health expert on the BBC 1 program Secret Tourist where she travels to an array of locations examining the conditions of the hotels.