- Your hands can have anywhere from 100,000 to a few million germs at any given time.
- Some of those germs live naturally on your skin to protect you, but a lot of them are picked up in the environment.
- If you stopped washing your hands, you become more likely to pick up viruses like influenza, norovirus, and yes, coronaviruses.
- You could also end up with a Staphylococcus infection, or an infection from flesh-eating bacteria — also known for causing necrotizing soft tissue infections.
- To avoid that, make sure to regularly wash your hands for at least 20 seconds, covering every inch of your hands.
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Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: Germs are like cars. They are always on the move. And our hands? They're like one big freeway, moving germs toll-free from location to location outside and inside your body. But when you wash your hands, you create a major roadblock, stopping the germs in their tracks. So, what would happen if you gave up handwashing forever?
Your hands can have anywhere from 100,000 to a few million germs at any given time. Some of those germs live naturally on your skin to protect you, but a lot of them are quite literally picked up in the environment. Those germs then sit, waiting for transportation to your mouth, nose, or eyes. And these environmental germs can be downright evil.
This was something we discovered way back in the 1840s, when Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis noticed that when doctors performed autopsies and then helped women give birth, it led to a higher death rate among the mothers. Semmelweis implemented chlorine handwashing practices throughout the hospital, and death rates dropped significantly.
Now, there are a lot of disease-causing germs out there. Meet bacterial conjunctivitis, or, as you may know it, pink eye: the pus-producing, eye-burning infection. Say you go to the bathroom and don't wash up afterwards. That bacteria makes its way onto your hands, and then a simple eye scratch will set your pink eye into motion.
After preparing uncooked meat, petting certain animals, or coming in contact with fecal matter, your stomach is about to feel pretty terrible. Diarrhea-causing illnesses, like salmonella or giardiasis, are 30% more likely when you don't wash your hands. And even after you recover, you are likely to find yourself catching these illnesses again and again.
As you continue touching contaminated surfaces and shaking hands, more germs come into the mix. You are 20% more likely to catch respiratory viruses, like influenzas, the common cold, and, of course, COVID-19, potentially leading to complications or even severe pneumonia.
And then there's the norovirus. This severe stomach virus only needs a single particle to infect you. Influenzas need 50 to 100. So without handwashing, you're almost guaranteed to catch it sooner or later.
Now, you could diminish your chances of getting any of these diseases by simply not touching your face. But good luck; one small study found that on average, people touch their faces over 20 times an hour.
And, sure, germs will die eventually if they haven't been transported to an opening, but because you won't be able to stop touching things, you also won't be able to stop picking up new germs and other grime, so your hands will get dirtier and dirtier, smellier and smellier. And chances are you aren't moisturizing either, which means your hands will become dry and cracks will form, creating a perfect pocket for germs.
Let's say that now you get a cut on your hand. Not only will all those diseases have an even easier way inside, the most menacing germs might just join this infection party. Staphylococcus, more commonly known as staph, can be a relatively harmless group of bacteria and can even be commonly found in some people's noses. But when a wound opens up and staph moves in, expect skin irritations, boils, fevers, and even blood infections.
Some strains of staph and other bacteria take it one step further. Welcome the flesh-eating bacteria, also known for causing necrotizing soft tissue infections. This life-threatening infection is a result of bacteria invading the skin, often when a cut or wound is present. It can destroy the skin, muscle, and, if untreated, lead to death.
So, you now have a cocktail of infectious diseases, severe blisters, rashes, and your flesh is being eaten alive. It's right about now you might want to rush off and wash your hands. But remember, it's not about how often you wash; it's about how and when you wash.
For how, make sure it's for at least 20 seconds, covering every inch of your hand. If you don't have a sink or clean water, use at least 60% alcohol hand sanitizer for 20 seconds, making sure the hands stay wet throughout. And for when, wash whenever you think you might have come in contact with germs. And try to see how long you can go without touching your face.
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