Friday, October 30, 2009

A Rare non-stroke recovery entry: Hand washing

I'm a big fan of hand washing. Eliminating bacteria and viruses from hands makes sense. It doubly makes sense because my home is often infested with a problem of a much bigger size: Children. My kids, their friends. Their friends friends friends friends. I am the steely-eyed Great Wall of China of bacterial and viral stoppage! Mean! Wash your hands I say. Most kids go in to the bathroom. My kids could go anywhere in the house to clean their hands.

We generally use iso-propanol rubbing alcohol to clean our hands. There are mist spray bottles in the bathrooms, kitchen and on desks. The rule is, if the dirt is visible, wash your hands. No visible dirt? Use the alcohol. I implemented this house rule a couple of years ago. I based it on the fact that children will not follow the "sing your ABCs" length of washing rule. They get in, sorta wash, and then sorta dry. I had read an article--which I am having trouble re-locating-- which said that using alcohol killed more germs than hand washing.

Then a few weeks ago, this from Kathleen Sebelius (née Gilligan-- She'll will be working closely with the Professor and MaryAnn.") "Lil' Buddy Gilligan taught us all how to sneeze. After she teaches the proper sneeze she endorses a brand-name gel hand sanitizer. She is an expert on all things medical because, hey, former governor of Kansas--hello! And then c'mon-- she names the brand? Why? I'm sure she was just trying to ride a moment of cuteness. Or maybe she owns stock? As Glen Beck would say, "I'm jus' saying..."

What is best for washing hands? Well, it would be nice if there was one answer. But there are several. It's science. If you want definitive answers, try religion.

Part of the problem is that most research focuses on hand-washing Vs. alcohol gels. But there are many other options. So who should we really trust? Dentists! They've been grappling with this issue since the 80's. And what conclusion have the come to? Its neither hand-washing or gel. In fact, hand washing and alcohol gel do worse than everything else tested in dentistry.

For the rest of us non-dentists it is a given; Hand washing is effective. But in some tests, the gel hand sanitizers do better. However, there are many chemicals in the gel, including the gel itself, that make me wary.

Propylene Glycol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Aminomethyl Propanol, Carbomer, Fragrance, Glycerin, Isopropyl Myristate, Propylene Glycol, Tocopheryl Acetate, Aminomethyl Propanol, Carbomer, Fragrance (Parfum), Blue 1 (CI 42090), Yellow 5 (CI 19140). (Thanks Sanjay!)
So I choose straight alcohol. But unlike the former governor of Kansas , I am not an expert in this field. So trust your doctor!


Larry said...

Just to link this entry slightly more back to the main topic of stroke recovery:

I've often wondered if indications that a stroke survivor's immune system is depressed are caused by an actual depressed immune system or simply by the individual's inability to practice proper hand-washing techniques due to hand function impairment. Might make for an interesting study anyway...

Peter G Levine said...

I've never read that stroke relates directly to a compromised immune system. Hopefully, if they've studied this, they've taken hand cleaning out because, you're right, it'd be a confound. Usually you'd measure the immune system in terms of white blood cell count or other immuno-chemicals. Not in terms of, say, how many colds you get.

But the point that hand cleaning relates to stoke because washing can be near impossible (in some cases, at least) was an opportunity lost in terms of the blog entry. Thanks for the reminder!

Blog Archive