Washing hands in this way may help lower COVID-19 infection risk

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In a new study, researchers found that moderate frequency hand-washing 6-10 times a day is linked to a lower risk of coronavirus infection.

The research is the first empirical evidence that regular hand-washing can reduce the personal risk of acquiring seasonal coronavirus infection.

It draws on data from three successive winter cohorts (2006 to 2009) of the England-wide Flu Watch study.

The team says given that COVID-19 appears to demonstrate similar transmission mechanisms to seasonal coronaviruses, these findings support clear public health messaging around the protective effects of hand-washing during the pandemic.

The research was conducted by a team at UCL.

In this study, the team tested 1,633 participants. The majority of participants (almost 80%) were adults over sixteen years of age.

To assess overall handwashing frequency participants were asked the start of each season to “Estimate how many times you washed your hands yesterday.”

The frequency of daily handwashing was subsequently categorized as low (≤5 times daily), moderate (6-10 times daily), or high (>10 times daily) guided by literature around influenza-like illness in Western community settings.

The team found moderate-frequency handwashing was linked to a much lower risk of contracting coronavirus. For higher intensity hand-washing there was no strong extra benefit.

The team says something as simple as washing hands regularly can help people to keep the infection rate low and reduce transmissions.

It’s important to highlight that frequency of hand-washing is only one aspect of hand hygiene.

The team also says that both longer duration of hand-washing and the context of hand-washing e.g. upon returning home or before eating—have been linked to lower overall risk of influenza or influenza-like-illness.

Good hand hygiene should be practiced at all times regardless of whether people show symptoms or not.

This will help protect them and prevent unwittingly spreading the virus to others.

The lead author of the study is Sarah Beale (UCL Institute of Health Informatics), a Ph.D. researcher.

The study is published in Wellcome Open Research.

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