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Last week we posted an article to try to call out awareness to washing your hands.  On May 5th, the World Health Organization organized its annual call to action to Save Lives: Clean Your Hands Day.  We like to push this topic further and we were able to interview one of the top experts in this area, Jason A. Tetro (in picture to right), who as you may already know if you follow our Editor-in-Chief, @SonnyPatel, came across my post and “tweeted” to Sonny about it.

 

Jason A. Tetro has been in the scientific community for nearly 25 years. He has worked on diagnostic technologies and has expertise in the food, water and bloodborne fields. He is currently Coordinator for the Emerging Pathogen Research Centre (EPRC) and the Centre for Research on Environmental Microbiology (CREM) both housed at the University of Ottawa. Here, he works to develop novel methods to identify and mitigate infectious disease risks. Jason is also known as the “Germ Guy” where he promotes health and hygiene in the public.  He is internationally recognized as an expert in germs, their spread and how to prevent illness.

 

After getting myself further educated on this subject and interviewing him, I must say, I am never going to take washing my hands for granted anymore.

I enjoyed interviewing Jason so much that I split his interview into two parts. Below is part one of the interview.  Enjoy.

-TJ

TJ (HealthyMenToday): Thanks again for taking the time in your busy schedule to joining us here at Healthy Men Today – lets get this rolling.  Do you feel there is enough information and awareness on washing your hands?

 

Jason A. Tetro (JAT): I think there is more than enough information on the subject and to be honest, I think we all have known since childhood that we should be keeping our hands clean.  It’s a matter of whether or not people listen to what is being said and even more importantly, whether they act upon it.

 

Many people have what is called ‘rugged individualism’ which is in essence a form of personal libertarianism or a belief that, “I know what’s best for me.”  This applies not only to hand hygiene but numerous aspects of health.  While this may not be an issue for one person, no one is truly ever alone; we need to take others into consideration.  If not, one may not only be putting someone else’s health at risk but also, and perhaps more importantly, as we’ve seen with something as unfortunate as antibiotic resistance, one’s own health down the line.  Hand hygiene may seem innocuous however it really is the cornerstone of all health behavior.

 

TJ (HMT): That’s what it is called, I sometime fall in that rugged category as you mentioned, primarily associated to me being lazy and ignorant as one can see on the subject.

With that said, I feel that people are being lazy in using hand sanitizers instead of soap when available (I have to admit, I sometimes do and I know I am ashamed about it).  Are there any benefits or disadvantages in this? (You mention briefly in your comment in your old interview for WSJ article )

JAT: Hand sanitizers are designed to work best on hands that are relatively clean and free of buildup.  When I have gone into schools and other establishments, I tend to look at the children’s hands to see whether or not they have been washing their hands.  It’s fairly easy to notice a lack of decent washing.  There’s a grayish-yellow coating on the hands made up of a combination of dead skin, as well as the dirt, oil and grime that one picks up in normal daily activities.  If this exists, hand sanitizers will not be as effective and I’ve shown this more than a few times in the past.  In reality, hand sanitizers are complementary to hand washing when it does not exist (or it is infeasible to do so).  However, one should still be washing their hands about 8-12 times a day. 

TJ (HMT): Wow, I now have a goal to shoot for and pay attention to.  Speaking about someone needing to pay attention to, I recently saw a restaurant employee washing his hands up to the elbow like a doctor. Should this be a standard practice?

JAT: If I have something creeping up past my wrist, I usually tend to wash up to the elbows although it may not be entirely necessary.  When it comes to infection spread, hand hygiene is really about the palms crevices and fingertips as they are the surfaces most likely to become contaminated and then spread whatever has been picked up.  One needs to ensure that there is as little transient material as possible on those surfaces; the rest is mainly for peace of mind.  

 

TJ (HMT): Since people love/need to have guidelines is there a way to properly wash your hands?

JAT: Yes although it would be rather insincere to say that only one way works.  There are several guides to help people know the technique to wash their hands but as long as there is good lathering, good friction and contact over the whole surface for a minimum of 20-30 seconds followed by rinsing and proper drying, pretty much any technique will work.

TJ (HMT): So far I am following you, I wash my hands when I am suppose to (when I am going to eat etc), should I be washing my hands periodically any way?

JAT: There have been studies on this and one should wash their hands about 8-12 times a day.  The most crucial are of course after use of the bathroom, before and after eating and just after traveling.  Usually when I get home, I wash my hands and change my clothes to ensure that anything that may have come into contact with me doesn’t get spread in the house.

Part 2 will be posted next Tuesday, May 17.