What’s on Your Hands?

College of DuPage Nursing Student Ashley Gilpin wrote for Healthy Lombard that children are told from a young age to wash their hands. But why is this necessary? Is this because they are dirty or have germs on them and if so, aren’t germs good for building a healthy immune system? Washing hands is such a simple task that is performed countless times a day without actually knowing what is on them. The reality is that there is usually all sort of good and bad things on the hands of an individual.

Certain bacteria that collect on the hands each day are actually considered vital for healing open wounds and cuts. Any scratch that impairs skin integrity initiates an inflammatory response, and the presence of microbes modulates the inflammatory response (Geddes, 2009). Without these normal bacteria on the hands, the body is not able to heal properly. Bacteria may be harmful, however, when an open wound occurs on the body.

Long before the COVID-19 pandemic, handwashing was a common practice, but it has increased since it began. According to Courtney (2019), however, 92% of individuals claim they wash their hands after using the restroom, yet only about 66% of them actually do. On average, the typical individual touches an estimated 60,000 germs a day, with about one to two percent of these germs considered dangerous to the immune system. The most common harmful bacteria and viruses that we encounter include ‘staph’, E. Coli, salmonella, types of fungi, and certain parasites (Courtney, 2019), and those that cause the cold and flu. The most common locations of these harmful bacteria are door handles, ATMs, shopping carts, keys, money, purses, wallets, remote controls, bathrooms, restaurant menus, and most importantly, cellphones (Brownstein & Chitale, 2008) and many of these bacteria may live on surfaces for up to 24 hours.

Hand washing really is as critical as the experts have advised since childhood and recommended, at a minimum; after any exposure to a public place, touching surfaces others have touched, and before and after touching food (Whelan, 2020). Even though the chances of contracting a harmful pathogen are low, handwashing it is the single most important action one can do to keep themselves and the surrounding people healthy. This is especially important during cold and flu season and during the pandemic. It is important to note: handwashing is important for the sake of everyone’s health, rather than not actually washing the hands and merely claiming they were washed which doesn’t benefit anyone’s health!

Whelan, C. (2020, July 06). How Washing Your Hands Keeps You Healthy. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/washing-hands


Brownstein, J., & Chitale, R. (2008, September 17). 10 Germy Surfaces You Touch Every Day. Retrieved February 12, 2021, from https://abcnews.go.com/Health/ColdandFluNews/story?id=5727571&page=1







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