Hand hygiene considerations in COVID times
Hand drying is equally important to proper hand hygiene as hand washing. AIA partner Excel Dryer explores the latest recommendations and updated materials from the CDC and other organizations.
Hand drying has not received the same media attention that hand washing has in recent months. Ask most anyone how long you should wash your hands and they’re likely to respond with “20 seconds” or “the amount of time it takes to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice.” Ask these same individuals to describe the importance of complete hand drying, or what hand drying solutions are recommended by leading health experts and organizations, and they’re less likely to be able to answer, or, if they do provide an answer, it’s unlikely to match others’ responses.
To mitigate some of this confusion, and to place an emphasis on the importance of hand drying as a means to prevent the spread of germs like coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently updated its hygiene resource materials, clarifying language and revising visual materials. Now, with the latest updates, the CDC’s stance is unequivocally clear: hand washing and drying are equally important, and hand dryers are a recommended hand drying solution.
Recommendations from leading healthcare experts
The CDC’s messaging shares that “germs spread more easily when hands are wet” and recommends thorough hand drying with clean towels or hand dryers to mitigate germ transfer and the spread of viruses like coronavirus. Likewise, the organization’s robust hand hygiene media library has been updated to visually depict both towels and hand dryers as a means to complete hygienic hand drying, including in materials supporting the Stop Germs! Wash Your Hands campaign.
The CDC’s stance echoes the World Health Organization’s language that states that everyone should “frequently clean [their] hands…” and “dry [them] thoroughly by using paper towels or a warm air dryer.” It also mirrors findings from a 2020 research study conducted by scientists at the University of Arizona. After an exhaustive two-year process, Comparison of electric hand dryers and paper towels for hand hygiene: a critical review of the literature was completed, peer reviewed, and published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology. Through their study, the researchers sought to uncover which hand drying method, hand dryers or paper towels, is more hygienic and safer relative to human infection risks. They found that, while studies in the public arena generally favor paper towels over hand dryers, the conclusions are largely misleading and unsubstantiated.
The study that was found to have the highest rigor score was an independent study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, Effects of 4 Hand-Drying Methods for Removing Bacteria From Washed Hands: A Randomized Trial, that found, “…there is no difference in bacteria counts when drying with paper towels or hand dryers.”
Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., the corresponding author of the University of Arizona’s scoping review explained that although numerous studies have been published evaluating the “best” method for hand drying, “best” has been defined in a variety of ways relative to bacterial removal efficacy, environmental contamination potentials, ecological or cost benefits, noise, and more. Reynolds, shared that, “No study to date has examined the ‘best’ drying method,” and that she and her team, “found no empirical data to support one hand drying method over another from a health and safety perspective.”
Knowing that hand-drying is equally important as hand washing, here are a few product considerations to keep in mind.
- Operation: Hand dryers with automatic sensors reduce touchpoints in a restroom.
- Complete hand drying: The term “dry” was subjective until the introduction of the first Product Category Rules by UL Environment for the hand dryer industry that defined dry as 0.25 g or less of residual moisture. When selecting a hand dryer, it is important to look for a UL marking signifying that the dryer in question has undergone relevant testing, ensuring that it is capable of completely drying one’s hands. The XLERATOR Hand Dryers, for instance, have been proven to completely dry hands in as little as 8 seconds per the Global UL Environment PCR testing standards.
- HEPA: The HEPA Filtration System in the XLERATOR line of hand dryers was recently tested and proven to remove 99.999 percent of viruses from the airstream, adding an extra level of protection against germs. Removable and washable metal mesh pre-filter helps block dust and particles to extend the life of the HEPA filter.
To review the CDC’s hand-washing recommendations, visit cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html.
To learn more about Excel Dryer’s hygienic hand drying solutions, visit exceldryer.com.
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