Gross truth about not washing hands
A stomach-turning image taken by one mum has revealed just how many microbes live on unwashed hands - and it will make you rush to the sink to scrub your own.
Hand washing is more important than ever amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed over 256,000 people and infected more than 3.6 million.
US lab technician Tasha Sturm, 52, has created a picture to show the risk of not washing your hands by taking a print from her son's hand.
The Californian mum waited until he came in from playing outside before asking him to stick his hand on an agar plate to demonstrate the results in a microbiology class.
The stomach-churning results are enough to warrant washing your hands an extra couple of times a day, after showing an almost alien looking handprint of organisms living on her son's hands.
"At the beginning of every semester the students' first class is about microbes being everywhere. I'm responsible for setting up demonstration plates of where microbes can be found," Ms Sturm said.
"A few weeks before one of these classes I brought my son in from playing out in the garden and asked him to press his hand into an agar plate.
"Like a typical boy he had made a real mess outside, so he went and cleaned it all up but before he washed his hands he pressed them down on the plate and this picture is the result."
Agar is a nutrient-rich base for microorganisms to grow and after pressing his hand to the plate it created "colourful colonies of fungi and yeast," Ms Sturm said.
"Every time you do it it'll look different and you can't recreate the same image every time because the microbes will always be different," she said.
"It creates a snapshot or a fingerprint of the exact moment it happened and what microbes are present at the time it was done.
"Bacteria is everywhere, and this would be the same for anyone who did the same thing, the most important times to wash your hands are before eating and after using the bathroom.
"I've been doing this for over 20 years and it's never looked the same."
Surprisingly Ms Sturm received some backlash over how dirty her son's hand looked when she shared the image online, however, said it looked no different to someone else's unwashed hand.
"Microbes live all over our body and are vital to having a healthy immune system."
She said one of the reasons for these demonstrations is to show students how science works in a relatable language.
"There's a big push in science communication now to speak normal language versus the scientific language to students," she said.
"I always tell people in science that even if their work means the world to them, if they can't explain it in a way that anyone would understand then nobody is really interested."
HOW TO KEEP YOUR HANDS CLEAN
Health bosses say the best way to protect yourself from coronavirus is to wash your hands with soap and water for the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice.
The song takes about 20 seconds to sing twice and is said to be the perfect number to clean your hands to thoroughly.
If you do not have immediate access to soap and water then use alcohol-based hand wash if available.
You should also not touch your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and avoid close contact with people who are sick.
Cleaning and disinfecting objects and surfaces which you may have touched is also important.
Dr Daniel Atkinson, clinical lead at Treated.com, said: "Hygiene is incredibly important to ward off any viruses.
"Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly - for at least 20 seconds - and cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
"If you can, avoid contact with sick people and avoid shaking hands with anyone displaying flu-like symptoms."
This story first appeared on The Sun and has been republished with permission
Originally published as Gross truth about not washing hands