William The Coroner’s Forensic Files

Thursday, 29, May, 2008

Cook your food and wash your hands

Filed under: Medicine — williamthecoroner @ 12:04

I’ve seen several alarmist articles on infectious diseases lately, this one, and this one. I’m not particularly germ-phobic (considering what I do, that’s a good thing.) Working in the forensic setting, you do get exposed to things that other folks don’t. In some cases, you take obvious precautions. Someone with an open surgical wound has no business being in an autopsy suite. I had a colleague in residency with eighteen inches of GI tract total, from her Crohn’s disease. She was on IV feedings–but never in the cutting room or the morgue. Don’t drink coffee while you’re doing a post (a simple rule, but one I’ve seen routinely violated)

A lot of this is common sense. Go to the toilet? Wash your hands. See a patient? Wash your hands. Going to eat something? Wash your hands. Soap and water are health miracles. Cook your food. Don’t leave mayo-based stuff out in the sun (duh). Don’t eat old food. Use your fridge. This was a big point on my last microbiology test. I don’t see the point with anti-bacterial cleansing products and hand sanitizers. Wash your hands frequently.

And here’s a good pointer I stole from my friend, Heather. No need to re-invent the wheel, she has a good way with words. (My words are bolded)

With most hand-washing it isn’t just the soap or the disinfectant that kills bacteria and viruses. It’s also the action of washing, and most people don’t know or can’t be arsed to properly wash their hands. Here’s a refresher:

  • Use lots of soap and warm-to-hot water. (I know. I get hand dermatitis, and I hate this, but I’d rather put on lotion a lot than get a bug from feces.) (The water temp is important, you don’t want to scald yourself, but the heat helps)
  • Don’t bother with antibacterial soap. Lots of bugs are immune to triclosan (the active ingredient), and it can cause dermatitis from repeated use. If you’re scrubbing in for surgery, you’ll know what to use (and why are you reading this, anyway?).
  • Lather your entire hand. All of it, not just the palms. Fingers, between fingers, thumbs, wrists — all these areas get lathered and briskly rubbed.
  • Lock your fingers together and rub them against each other. Ditto around thumbs.
  • If you have acrylic nails or visible dirt under your nails, FFS, clean them with a nail brush. (You wouldn’t believe the germs found under most acrylic nails. Use the nail brush.) (I don’t get the tribal warpaint, myself, and Eeeeeeew.)
  • Thirty seconds is a good amount of time to spend soaping up. I mentally sing “Happy Birthday” with a blues beat if I’m feeling OCD. (I was taught two verses of “Alphabet song”, but whatever works)
  • Rinse well — pointing hands down towards sink — and wipe dry with a paper towel.
  • Turn off water with another paper towel or your elbow.
  • Open the exit door with the paper towel. (Or your elbow. Or your shoe)

If you don’t properly wash your hands, you spread E. coli and all kinds of fecal-based bacteria around to everything you touch. Including your keyboard and phone.

I might add that wiping the earpiece of your phone with an alcohol wipe can keep you from getting really annoying ear pimples. I got them when I worked dispatch.


  1. I have acrylic nails because polish on them doesn’t chip, which is handy if you like to do things like gardening or type a lot. After reading about the oogies found under acrylic nails, I didn’t have them removed, I just started using a nail brush. A scrub under the acrylics a couple of times a day and I figure I’m cleaner than 90% of the population, yanno?

    Comment by Heather — Thursday, 29, May, 2008 @ 13:14 | Reply

  2. My nails are short and bare. Easier to work on stuff as well as keep clean. I want war paint there’s the cherry flavoured lip gloss.

    When I was on probation as a First Officer at my first airline (your whole first year) I flew with this guy who was a real germaphobe. He used to spray down the whole cockpit with Lysol about every hour. I wasn’t allowed to touch anything but my radios and my yoke on my legs to fly. I could tell he didn’t like me to start. First woman pilot, and some of the guys were less than accepting. One day, I sneezed. (spring allergy, not cold) All over everything, I couldn’t cover my mouth, both hands were busy flying, so it just went. He’d started spraying with the can before the engines were even shut down. I was NOT popular at that moment.

    Was REALLY glad when that bid cycle was over.

    Comment by Lin — Sunday, 1, June, 2008 @ 08:41 | Reply

  3. I’ve worked in non-medical eldercare as a caregiver (still work in the field; I’m just office staff now), and my preferred choice for my hand-washing song still is “Henry the Eighth.” My best friend is terribly amused by that….

    Comment by Auntie J — Friday, 20, May, 2011 @ 22:39 | Reply

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