Hot! Hand Washing—The #1 Deterrent to the Spread of Contaminants

By Peggy Sucher

Hand washing… something so simple, something we do frequently everyday (we DO, don’t we?), but it can make such a huge difference in the spread of bacteria and viruses.

Most microorganisms are harmless to man. We have “resident” microorganisms that thrive on and in our bodies. Some bacteria are necessary for healthy living. Those that live in our intestinal tract insure we digest that burger properly. Other bacteria, like those in our noses, can cause horrendous problems.

Just think, right now greater numbers of bacteria thrive on you than the population of our country! But again… most are harmless. It’s the few microorganisms that are mean buggahs that can do us harm. Things like staph, strep, MRSA, C. Diff, HBV, HCV or HPV can reek havoc and possible death to a person. (See the need for that proper blood borne training course?)

Microorganisms can be classified as RESIDENT… those we co-exist with daily. Here in Hawaii, we call them “locals.” And then we have TRANSIENT microorganisms… those who just come visit us, like tourists! We can pick up transient microorganisms from person-to -person contact or from touching contaminated surfaces like doorknobs, tables, shopping carts, etc.

The trick is to keep all of those microorganisms from getting INTO our bodies through our mouths, noses, eyes, open wounds/sores or other areas (think on that a minute, please!) Scratch a cold sore, rub your eye… you have troubles, my friend! Grab a dirty doorknob, eat a sandwich… ugh! Double UGH!   Tattoo someone, go home AND hug your spouse or kids….Yikes!

That Is why it is important to be aware of what we touch and when. As a friend recently pointed out:

Hold up the hand you eat with.

Now hold up the hand you wipe with.

Any questions?

We can protect ourselves with proper hygiene of which HAND WASHING is top dog. The CDC declares that proper handwashing is the #1 deterrent to disease transmission!!


But hand washing isn’t a quick splash under the faucet and a shake off on the run. It involves soap, lather and proper technique. Mom was right, to do the job correctly should take at least twenty seconds. Doesn’t seem like a long time, but clock yourself the next time you wash up. Bet it’s more like five to ten seconds at the most. Try using a ditty to time yourself:”Row Row Row Your Boat” or “Happy Birthday” work well. Of course, the others in the public bathroom will be moving away from you, but what the heck!

Correct hand washing involves removing jewelry… if you are tattooing, should you be wearing it at all? Lather up, bend those knuckles, flex those fingers, pay attention to the nailbeds and callous areas. Don’t let your thumbs get lonely! Scrub those soldiers! Up the wrists and arms, too!

One of the fun moments of the APT PDTT seminar is when we have everyone rub GloGerm on their hands and then go wash them. When we return, we hit the hands with a black light and… WOW! Missed areas shine the light on the fact that even when we are concentrating on hand washing we miss too many spots. What happens on a daily basis, when we are in a hurry? Scary thought!

If you have a wound, sore or open callous, it is portal of entry for microorganisms. Cleanse and bandage it properly and be very aware of what you are touching and what touches you.

Preventing disease transmission is a MUST in the tattoo business. We live in a time where you can’t get a shot in the bumm for a quick cure. Contaminating ourselves with other people’s body fluids can be a deadly serious mistake. Take a check and a double-check of your procedure and that of the folks you work with, to make sure everyone is on the same program.

Tattoo smart, tattoo safe. Stick around, so you too can be a grumpy ol’ tattooer!

Food for thought: For a fun training session, coat coworkers’ gloves with aftershave, then have them remove the gloves. Note the spray of aftershave; it could just as well be contaminated body fluids. GASP!


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