Science Questions

Does handwashing really work?

Mon, 10th Oct 2016

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Question

Dale asked:

Does regular hand soap actually kill germs?

Answer

Connie Orbach put this to Cheryl Trundle from Addenbrooke's hospital... Person washing his hands

Cheryl - When you’re talking about hand washing, the important things to know are when to do it, what sort of soap or what agent to use to wash your hands, and how you do it. And really, of those three, the most important is the good technique so it’s how you do it. Any soap will be sufficient, any soap will work, but it’s important you cover all the surface of your hands and you do it for the required length of time, and you need to do it before you touch a patient and after you’ve touched a patient.

Connie - The required length of time? I always thought depended on how much of a rush I was in. Cheryl:: Generally we say between ten and thirty seconds. About the time it takes you to sing Happy Birthday fairly slowly. Connie:: So far Dale, it seems your cleaning lady may have been telling porkies… What about that gesture though?

Cheryl - It’s just so they’re not tempted to touch anything. So they just hold them where they can see them so they’re not touching anything dirty to contaminate them again. Then the water can wash down to the elbow so that the fingertips, which are the important bits, remain clean. It also lets the hands drain a bit so it doesn’t take quite so long to dry them.

Connie - Well, there you go Dale. There’s some method to the madness but don’t ditch the soap just yet.Next week we’ll be defying time with Troy’s question...

Troy - If you were to live on Jupiter for fifty years and then return to Earth, what would the time difference be back on Earth due to Jupiter’s increased gravity? Thank you.

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