Swine flu prevention: It’s OK to wash in cold water

Hand washing

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Most people would prefer to wash their hands in comfortably warm water. And it’s usually available. The scientific question remains, however: Is warm or hot water more effective than cold if we want to prevent spreading the flu?
The FDA’s position has been that water hot enough to kill bacteria would be too hot for hand washing. Still, they maintained, warm water is more effective than cold because it removes oil from our hands. And there can be bacteria in that oil.


Not true, according to a scientific study done in 2005. In the experiment, subjects “contaminated” their hands, then washed them (with soap, for 25 seconds) in water of varying temperatures. Temperatures ranged from 40 degrees Fahrenheit (cold) to 120 degrees (hot). The temperature made no difference in reducing bacteria.
The study points out that, since hot water doesn’t help, it’s more economical (and environmentally sound) to use lukewarm water.
I have this on the authority of a short piece in the New York Times by Anahad O’Connor.
Related posts:
Swine flu and hand washing: The how, the when, and the why
Swine flu, kids, and a “wash your hands” rap video
Flu season: Should we stop shaking hands?
Preparing for the flu: Why don’t we do it in our sleeves?
Fear of flying: Will I catch swine flu on an airplane?
Swine flu parties for kids? Just say no
Flu news overdose

Sources:

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Anahad O’Connor, The Claim: Always Wash Your Hands With Hot Water, Not Cold, The New York Times, October 12, 2009

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