Handwashing Programme Reduces Spread of Bugs
By now, we should all know the importance of washing our hands. You know the drill: after going to the bathroom, coughing, and sneezing, or before preparing and eating meals, that kind of thing.
But do we all follow these “rules”, and if we do, is it enough?
According to research led by Professor Paul Little at the University of Southampton, most people wash their hands about five or six times a day. He suggested that if this figure could reach around 10 times a day, the spread of bugs and infection could be significantly reduced.
Professor Little explained that there is a risk of primary and secondary care getting overwhelmed in a pandemic because people don’t change their behaviour.
So, to promote hand cleanliness, an internet programme has been created called PRIMIT. The programme encourages users to learn simple techniques to avoid catching and passing on viruses and to monitor their own hand-washing behaviour.
The programme was trialled in the UK over the winter – peak cold and flu season – across 16,000 households, around 20,000 people all over the age of 18.
The households were split into two groups, one of which used the PRIMIT programme, while the other served as a control group. At the end of the 16 weeks, the participants were asked to fill out a health-related questionnaire.
According to the study, published in The Lancet, only 51% of the PRIMIT group had contracted a respiratory infection before the end of the trial, compared with 59% of the control group. The group following the programme was also found to have a 20% lower risk of catching flu-like symptoms, and 10-15% fewer doctors appointments and prescriptions.
Professor Little said that before the trial, while it was clear that washing your hands regularly was important, no one really knew why. And because so many people now have access to the internet, the programme would be a great way of providing health information and also prevent the NHS or other health bodies from becoming overwhelmed.
“I think people might be a little unsure that washing your hands might really be effective in preventing transmission, but we now know that is the case,” said Professor Little. “You don’t only protect yourself, you also protect your family members, and presumably your colleagues as well.”
So now you know just how many benefits there are to making sure you have clean and healthy hands – why not try it out yourself?