We all want to feel confident that once we wash our hands that they will stay clean once we dry them.
But will they stay clean if using a hot air hand dryer? Studies have found the following array of bacteria exist in the airflow of numerous types of air hand dryers, these include Staphylococcus haemolyticus, Micrococcus luteus, Pseudomonas alcaligenes, Bacillus cereus and Brevundimonad diminuta/vesicularis.
The risks associated with air hand dryers:
1) Not everybody washes their hand correctly when they use the sinks. Poorly washed hands may be contaminated with lactobacilli & when the subject uses a jet air dryer or warm air dryer to dry their hands, they spew harmful bacteria into the air! The Journal of Applied Microbiology conducted a study that showed hand dryers could disperse viruses up to 2 meters away. Yuk!
2) Bacteria live on the surface and inside the airstream of the dryer. Contrary to popular belief, you can get bacteria on your hands by using a hand dryer! Newer models may also require you to place your hands inside the dryer – another opportunity for contact with germs! Studies have shown that bacteria can build up on the surface of the dryers, especially in the pools of dirty material that can collect in the wells and crevices, if they aren’t cleaned thoroughly and regularly they will harbour harmful bacteria that gets blown around once you place your hands in to dry.
3) Poorly powered Hot-air hand dryers in public bathrooms ‘suck in’ bacteria from flushing toilets and actually bathe hands in bacteria circulating in bathrooms.
4) Efficiency is also a factor to consider when deciding between air dryers and hand towels. Air dryers that are used in many washrooms allow for only one user at a time and each person could take up to one minute to dry their hands. This is not convenient and often leads to avoidance or incomplete drying. In several studies, on average people spent just 22.5 seconds drying hands, and 41% wiped their hands unhygienically on clothes. It only takes 10 – 20 seconds to dry your hands effectively with a single paper hand towel.
So what’s a person to do to avoid picking up bacteria in a bathroom? You should still dry your hands, as not drying them after washing them helps bacteria to survive on them. Paper towels are the most hygienic way to dry your hands. For this reason, use of paper towels is already routine in health care settings. You may also wish to avoid jet air dryers altogether, just remember that your chances of picking up a serious pathogen in a washroom are small. Direct contact with other people is much more likely as a means of acquiring infection.
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