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Is hand sanitising largely a pointless displacement activity...

(70 Posts)
Derbygerbil Wed 02-Sep-20 23:25:43

... to convince ourselves and others that we are more in control than we actually are.

Back in March we were all urged to scrub our hands frequently and thoroughly, singing songs as we did so. This didn’t stop Covid from increasing exponentially....

More and more studies seem to confirm that Covid is overwhelmingly via breathing in droplets or aerosols containing the virus, with very little, if any, evidence, for mouth-to-surface-to-surface-to mouth transmission. Even the vulnerable weren’t advised to clean down their shopping after the initial couple of weeks of lockdown!

And yet, there seems still to be so much emphasis of hand sanitising, with this seemingly a central part of many Covid response plans.

I’m not saying that keeping hands clean isn’t a good thing - it is, but the focus doesn’t seem to be so much about actual Covid prevention, but being seen to do something, and the sense of control and confidence this brings.... but with the consequence that people have an exaggerated sense of its importance, either:
a) leading to unnecessary neurotic, compulsive behaviours or;
b) engaging in other far more “risky” social activity because you’ve done “what matters” and sanitised, or even;
c) arguing that masks (whose purpose is to prevent the primary mode of transmission via breath) are rendered useless by the mere touch to the face (despite this would be a highly unusual mode of virus transmission).

OP’s posts: |
Keepdistance Wed 02-Sep-20 23:41:52

I agree it's possible focus needs to switch.
But that would mean people need to consider where they go inside
Pubs
Shops
Gym
School
Soft play

As they seem to think its ok as they washed hands.

Also elderly think they are ok inside...
I also think that about the line of under x age not transmitting it. See lots of GP looking after the GC

ReadingTeaLeaves Wed 02-Sep-20 23:46:00

Most people touch their mouth with their hands a LOT. I'm not an epidemiologist, so take what I say with a huge pinch of salt, but really I can see why in all hand washing is such a large component of the messaging, and why it has always been such a major part of infection control in hospitals - in relation to various illnesses regardless of transmission routes.

MinnieMousse Wed 02-Sep-20 23:47:45

Well, if nothing else, perhaps the increased hand hygiene will reduce the transmission of other illnesses like norovirus so we can concentrate on Covid in the winter!

MissPoldark Wed 02-Sep-20 23:52:59

I agree that hand washing and sanitising does very little to control the spread of an airborne virus, but it’s no bad thing to encourage people to do it more often.
Looking at the empty shelves of hand wash back in March made me wonder whether lots of people bought soap for the first time!

Derbygerbil Thu 03-Sep-20 00:00:46

Most people touch their mouth with their hands a LOT. I'm not an epidemiologist, so take what I say with a huge pinch of salt, but really I can see why in all hand washing is such a large component of the messaging, and why it has always been such a major part of infection control in hospitals - in relation to various illnesses regardless of transmission routes.

I’m not an epidemiologist either... but I believe whereas surface transmission may be important in some illnesses, it isn’t really with Covid whose transmission path is almost entirely airborne I believe.

OP’s posts: |
TW2013 Thu 03-Sep-20 00:06:03

Even airborne viruses can also be spread by touch usually too. Jane covers her mouth to cough so rather than cough into the room the virus has been caught. She then opens the door with the handle. Sarah comes and opens the door a few minutes later then rubs her eyes.... Good hand washing will help, but clearly is not sufficient.

Atomsaway Thu 03-Sep-20 00:08:36

I saw an expert on the TV who said that the virus is shed when we go to the toilet and that is why we should be washing our hands properly, especially after going to the bathroom.
Look up Carl Heneghan.

Atomsaway Thu 03-Sep-20 00:11:55

I have to say though, I am a little concerned about the vast quantities of hand sanitiser chemicals we are slathering on ourselves. Can’t be good for the natural good bacteria on our bodies of whatever is soaking into our skin.
Resistant bacteria will be a bigger problem than COVID.

LilyPond2 Thu 03-Sep-20 00:18:51

I agree with you, OP. Not that I think hand sanitising isn't a sensible precaution when you've touched a "high touch" surface, but I think there's been so much focus on hand washing/sanitising that a lot of people are under the impression that you will be safe from the virus provided you take enough care over hand sanitising and cleaning surfaces. That is obviously dangerous because it risks giving people a false sense of security and causing people to focus on the wrong things when doing risk assessments (eg obsessing about cleaning surfaces when they ought to be focusing on ventilation and distancing).

Crosswithlifeatm Thu 03-Sep-20 00:35:05

We could use common sense but as we know some people are lacking.
At the moment,I work on a hospital and all patients I come in contact with have been tested so I gel my hands before entering my house an then wash.Then inside I wash as normal.
When I get a cold or flu I wash my hands a lot as in the house this is a more likely transmission rout as I may cough into my hands but always away from others.
Good handeashing in schools especially should help reduce any vomiting bug ripping through and I'm always surprised that at the first hint kids aren't being marched to wash hands ar least before lunch.

Crosswithlifeatm Thu 03-Sep-20 00:41:35

Bleaching everysurface to within an inch of it's life is a displacement activity and largely done for show.
For example I took my daughter to the opticians,she sat ina chair,wearing a mask,not talking or coughing before she went through for her eye test.
The chair she had been on was bleached thoroughly,including the legs and underneath.
If this is valid we should be doing this all the time as other virus are easier to catch from fomites where as out of the body this one is fairly fragile.

vapeinafleshlight Thu 03-Sep-20 00:45:26

You're all talking with zero knowledge of how any of this works 🙈 comments about how "slathering ourselves in alcohol might be worse" are just proving the point.

Chessie678 Thu 03-Sep-20 00:53:24

I was thinking about this the other day. I went shopping and should have sanitised my hands about 20 times in the space of three hours if I had used every station I was supposed to. I think the government and businesses have embraced hand sanitising alongside additional cleaning because it is relatively easy and people mostly don't mind doing it. You can be "covid secure" as a cafe by putting a bottle of hand sanitiser out and wiping the tables more frequently. Last time I checked there were very few confirmed cases of transmission from surfaces so it seems that this is in the realm of theoretically possible but unlikely and probably negligible compared to transmission directly between people.

Extra hand washing and cleaning sounds benign but when it's on a population level and probably a long-term behavioural change rather than a short term measure. I suspect it might be one of the more damaging legacies of covid. Trying to sterilise our environment seems very likely to weaken immunity to everyday illness. There is already good evidence that growing up in a very clean environment increases incidence of allergies and asthma whereas growing up with pets and everyday muck decreases the incidence. There have been a few articles with scientists warning overuse of sanitiser recently but I haven't seen the government respond to this concern. There is some suggestion that hand washing is better because overuse of sanitiser can encourage bacterial resistance and although sanitiser might kill 99.9% of bacteria the 0.1% left are generally the more dangerous resistant ones.

Deep cleaning also seems somewhat unnecessary. It seems very unlikely that children are going to catch covid from the floor of a classroom or their desk, for example. For a clean after every school day to prevent a case of covid there would need to (but for the cleaning) be a child in the class with covid who had contaminated part of the classroom and another child not to catch covid from this other child directly but instead to catch it from touching something that that child had touched and then putting their hand in their mouth and for this to transmit enough virus to cause infection. It just seems unlikely compared to the risk of person to person transmission.

EmilyDickinson Thu 03-Sep-20 04:19:42

I do agree, particularly as regards schools. Children and staff are washing and sanitising their hands all the time, which is (mostly) a good thing, but, as you say seems to ticking that “Covid secure” box by doing the thing that is possible to do whilst distracting everyone from the fact that an infected person could have completely clean hands but still potentially infect lots of people after a 45 minute lesson in a poorly ventilated, fully occupied classroom where there’s little to no social distancing and no masks being worn

UnmentionedElephantDildo Thu 03-Sep-20 06:21:36

Resistant bacteria will be a bigger problem than COVID.

Not from the alcohol gels that are the type that work against coronaviruses. That is because, like soap, it attacks the lipid layer of the virus and causes it to fall apart. Ditto bacteria.

Derbygerbil Thu 03-Sep-20 06:37:22

I saw an expert on the TV who said that the virus is shed when we go to the toilet and that is why we should be washing our hands properly, especially after going to the bathroom.

I’m not for a moment suggesting that washing our hands after going to the toilet is a bad thing... It’s the disproportionate focus on hand sanitising to take an airborne disease.

Back in March, my hand were in an awful state with all the washing, with the skin red, cracked and gnarled - my hands were painful. I don’t imagine I was the only one. I tempered my washing/sanitising in response,

OP’s posts: |
Derbygerbil Thu 03-Sep-20 06:37:47

tackle not take

OP’s posts: |
Derbygerbil Thu 03-Sep-20 06:49:42

@LilyPond2

I agree with you, OP. Not that I think hand sanitising isn't a sensible precaution when you've touched a "high touch" surface, but I think there's been so much focus on hand washing/sanitising that a lot of people are under the impression that you will be safe from the virus provided you take enough care over hand sanitising and cleaning surfaces. That is obviously dangerous because it risks giving people a false sense of security and causing people to focus on the wrong things when doing risk assessments (eg obsessing about cleaning surfaces when they ought to be focusing on ventilation and distancing).

Complete agree. It’s a bit like someone who wants to control their weight thinking that because they’ve put skimmed result than semi-skimmed milk in their tea, they can have a massive slice of gateau.

OP’s posts: |
raddledoldmisanthropist Thu 03-Sep-20 06:55:52

I have to say though, I am a little concerned about the vast quantities of hand sanitiser chemicals we are slathering on ourselves. Can’t be good for the natural good bacteria on our bodies of whatever is soaking into our skin.

It's alcohol and a little moisturiser. very little of either will get far into the skin.

Certainly it will get rid of bacteria on your hands, as will washing, but that won't do you any harm.

Derbygerbil Thu 03-Sep-20 06:59:17

@EmilyDickinson

I do agree, particularly as regards schools. Children and staff are washing and sanitising their hands all the time....

It was my son’s primary school that triggered this thread. So much emphasis and effort on hand washing, cleaning surfaces and quarantining books etc to give an impression of safety... It’s like trying to stop a draught by shutting your window vents while the door remains wide open.

OP’s posts: |
thecatsatonthewall Thu 03-Sep-20 07:03:07

Is CV an airborne disease? so its carried on the wind and can be caught 100s of miles away from the where the infected person coughed?
We are all doomed if thats the case smile

Or is it like other respiratory illnesses in that it is expelled in water droplets and quickly falls to the ground (and other surfaces) within a few meters? even with coughing.

Using alcohol based hand gels means that should you then touch said surfaces, the alcohol gel has a chance to kill the virus.

Sure, its not a panacea but your anecdote on skimmed milk and Gateau is simply wrong.

MrBucket Thu 03-Sep-20 07:05:27

Thing is I feel like that about a number of the measures. I’m not a “covid denier” or anti mask or any of the other things that anyone who questions things can be accused of. But the way that masks have been introduced in this country - when the evidence is quite specific about how they should be used and what kinds are most effective - it is just as much a display of “taking Covid seriously” rather than meaningful risk assessment. The same with some of the measures put in place in the name of distancing. A lot of this stuff just seems to be performative rather than meaningful and useful.

raddledoldmisanthropist Thu 03-Sep-20 07:05:59

More and more studies seem to confirm that Covid is overwhelmingly via breathing in droplets or aerosols containing the virus, with very little, if any, evidence, for mouth-to-surface-to-surface-to mouth transmission

I think confirm is too strong a description. I read it that the evidence is that aerosol transmission is important but the balance with contact transmission is still uncertain.

Since viral load seems to have a big effect on severity of symptoms, hand washing may help with death rates.

Even if hand washing has no effect on the spread of this Coronavirus (unlikely), it will still have a positive effect on public health.

Thing is, with rates so low at the moment, any intervention is probably doing nothing for an individual, but that's not really the point. Hopefully lots of small changes (hand washing, masks, distancing) will slow the spread at a population level so that bigger interventions (such as school closures) are not needed over winter.

SexTrainGlue Thu 03-Sep-20 07:15:48

If it is aerosol, rather than (somewhat bigger) droplet, then social distancing rules will need to be revised.

And we can expect it to be transmitted more readily in cool damp weather - conditions in which aerosols hang around for much longer - and indoors - where air is still.

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