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Hand sanitiser needs to be rubbed in for 15 seconds to kill germs study says

A small squeeze of hand sanitiser into your palm followed by a quick rub together of your hands, and you’re 99.9 per cent germ free… or so we thought.

According to a new study conducted by the University Hospital Basel, we’ve been applying hand sanitiser all wrong, suggesting it only proves effective if thoroughly applied for 15 seconds.

While this may sound a little absurd, it’s half as complicated as the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) advice, which recommends applying the gel in a complicated six-step, 30-second process. The research found 15 seconds is just as effective as 30 in reducing bacterial counts.

The WHO’s six-step process involves the following:

1. Apply a ‘palm-full’ amount of gel.

2. Rub hands palm-to-palm, before placing the right over the left and interlacing fingers.

3. Repeat with the left hand over right.

4. Rub palms together with fingers interlaced.

5. Rub back of fingers against opposing palms as well as thumb.6.Continue until hands are thoroughly dry and “safe”.

To investigate whether this lengthy process is necessary, the team of researchers asked 20 volunteers aged 18-51 to apply hand sanitiser via four techniques.

The first group followed the WHO’s regimen for 30 seconds, the second group completed the same process but for 15 seconds, the third group followed a three-step process for 30 seconds, and the fourth group completed the same three-step process for 15 seconds.

After each application, the researchers analysed the number of bacteria on the participants’ hands.

The results found both 15-second processes (the second and fourth methods) were as effective at reducing bacterial counts as the 30-second rubs (first and third methods).

The researchers hope the findings will help provide positive information for healthcare workers.

“The time pressure and heavy workload experienced by healthcare workers reduces compliance with hand hygiene standards,” said the study’s lead author Dr Tschudin-Sutter, of the department of infectiology and hospital hygiene at the University Hospital Basel.

“Our findings suggest shortening hand rubbing time and simplifying the technique for use of hand rub could be a safe alternative that is easier to fit into their busy routine, could enhance the overall quality of hand hygiene performance, and have a positive effect on adherence.”

The findings are a good reminder for office workers, too. According to a Dettol Infographic, the average work desk is 400 times dirtier than an average toilet seat, an average computer keyboard harbours 7500 bacteria, and the typical office worker’s hands come in contact with 10 million bacteria per day.

The researchers warn, however, the study’s tests were conducted in a laboratory setting and therefore the results may differ in other settings.

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