It was found through a scientific study involving 16,000 households that frequent hand wash reduces infection. It was not conducted in any third world nation but in UK. The Lancet, a medical journal, reported that a web-based programme encouraging people to wash their hands more frequently resulted in a 14% reduction in general risk of infection and a 20% lower risk of catching flu. The group had made lesser visits to their doctors and needed lesser antibiotics.
Even though people wash their hands five or six times a day, increasing it to 10 times a day would reduce the spread of bugs and infections through lessening their ‘viral load’.
So, those who do not want to catch flu, such as those with heart or lung problems or the elderly will benefit immensely.
The web-based programme, called PRIMIT, has four weekly sessions. It explains the medical evidence behind regular hand-washing and encourages users to learn simple techniques to monitor their own hand-washing behaviour. The users were followed up for 16 weeks and responses were collected through a questionnaire later.
Prof Little said that most households have access to the internet, the programme helps prevent the NHS from being overloaded. Prof Chris van Weel, from Radboud University in the Netherlands, said regular hand-washing was cost-effective and had public health benefits too.