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Handwashing: the simplest form of germ warfare


Two out three medical students didn’t know when handwashing was called for. Simple handwashing tips can keep germs at bay this winter.

‘Tis the season for spreading cold and flu germs. Luckily, regular handwashing with soap and water is one of the simplest, most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs.

That’s what makes a new study so disturbing: researchers found that two out of three medical students didn’t know when it’s appropriate to wash their hands!

The study of German medical school students revealed that only 33 percent could identify the five “true indications” of handwashing used by medical staff. They are

  • before contact with a patient
  • after contact with a patient’s bed
  • before preparing intravenous fluids
  • after taking off gloves
  • after contact with vomit

The medical students also believed that they would be more likely to comply with handwashing guidelines than nursing students. But research has shown that nurses wash their hands more often than doctors.

With any luck you’ll avoid hospitals—and medical students—this holiday season. Stay healthy by following these handwashing guidelines. Apparently, it’s easy to be more germ savvy than your average medical student.

When to wash your hands

  • preparing food, especially raw meat and poultry
  • before eating
  • inserting or removing contact lenses
  • treating a sick or injured person
  • giving medicine
  • using the toilet
  • after changing a diaper
  • blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing into your hands
  • touching an animal, its waste, toys, leashes, et cetera
  • handling garbage
  • handling hazardous garden or household chemicals

Handwashing tips

  • use warm to hot running water and soap
  • use regular soap (antibacterial cleansers may create antimicrobial-resistant germs)
  • rub hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds
  • dry hands with a paper towel or air dryer


Nurturing Self-Awareness

Nurturing Self-Awareness

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Carole AmesCarole Ames