Originally Posted by newshound
Can someone direct me to some factual information or definitive statements about the need to and benefits of washing your hands after coughing into your hands while working with food at home?
My question comes as a result of an event (and subequent argument) last night with someone who was working with me at home preparing dinner. The other person coughed into their hands several times and just kept on working with the food. Parts of the subsequent discussion were (1) it was a dry cough and (2) we are around each other "exchanging germs" by virtue of our proximity all the time so this (not washing after coughing into the hands) wasn't going to expose us (me) to anything that we (I) were not already being exposed to.
I have done a bunch of internet searches this morning on "coughing" and "handwashing". I found a lot of generic information and information about working in a commercial/restaurant kithcen, but nothing that comes right out and says "when working with food at home, if you cough into your hands then you need to wash your hands before you do anything else."
Washing is what I think I always do and I don't think I'm acting like Felix Unger, Adrian Monk or a germophobe. (If I am, please feel free to let me know.)
Sounds like a classic debate with my uncle. I'll summarize it:
When talking, saliva is airborne and going onto whoever it is you're talking to. If you cough, a whole lot more saliva comes out as well as more bacteria. The mouth is no sanitary place and bacteria love it there. If you cough on your hands then handle food, it's direct contact.
As for the coughing vs talking, that is partially true. You are being exposed to the bacteria/germs while talking. However, when you cough, bacteria from part of the respiratory tract can come up and about. These bacteria will go onto the person/food but some can remain in the mouth, transferred while talking.
"Dry cough"? That's false. Talking and exhaling releases saliva. A cough is by no means an exception. Their mouth may feel dry to them (result from the hypothalamus, etc...) but there still is moisture there.
If you're ill, then there can be a whole lot more of bacteria/germs around that you transfer into the food.
Just as an added fact, if you knew or not, in university, I believe my first year, we made a colony of E.coli
and used various cleaners/antibiotics on the cultures to see what would have the most effect on killing it. If memory serves (I'm not planning to sift through my various stacks of lab write-ups), liquid soap was one of the most effective at killing it.
I use this as an arguement with my uncle since E.coli
is a) Well-known b) It's not the most pleasent (although there are many other bacteria and viruses far worse) and isn't something you'll have in your mouth unless you're ill.
Think about this scenario. You're at a cafetaria ordering something for lunch. The server is handling food wearing no gloves and scratches their butt then with the other hand blows their nose into it. After that, they ask you what you would want.
The above scenario may seem rather disgusting and it's meant to be. However, consider this:
You're spreading bacteria just like you are if you cough and handle food. If you're in the kitchen, you have liquid dishsoap, which is fairly effective. Or, simply use alcohol rubs. If you are really paranoid, wear a pair of latex gloves and have several with you as a back-up.