• Do you take your phone to the loo?

    Should you take your phone to the loo?

    Everyone does it – that smart phone goes everywhere, even the loo!

    But what are the risks?

    If you take your phone to the toilet then you risk getting it covered in germs (or dropping it down the loo)! However, for many people this may be the one time they can have a sneaky look at their messages when at work, and I doubt people will take much notice about not taking it to the loo.

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  • Make sure you are safe with your Christmas turkey - use a thermometer

    Christmas Turkey – top tips for safety!

    Christmas is coming and the turkey questions keep rolling in! So here are some simple answers and top tips to keep you safe this Christmas. Watch this space – more updates to come!

    Q How do I store the raw turkey?

    • In the fridge – lowest shelf, protected from any foods that are ready to eat.

    Q Should I wash raw turkey?

    • Absolutely not – never!!! If you wash turkey you risk spreading germs all over your kitchen sink, draining board and anything else in the vicinity. Try not to handle it too much either – anywhere it’s been needs disinfecting – use an antibacterial spray such as Dettol. And don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly using soap and dry with a paper towel. I wash my hands twice after handling raw meat and poultry just to be on the safe side.

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  • Zambia: hygiene messages are the same as here

    Hygiene Messages in Zambia

    Shitima House SchoolI have just returned from Zambia where I visited a school and orphanage, Shitima House. 446 Children attend the school, and those who have no home to go to stay as residents. Others in my party carried out brilliant work with the children, from teaching 12th Graders vital exam techniques to helping to set up a jewellery co-operative business for school leavers to sustain themselves when they have finished their education.Handwashing class

    For my part, I spoke to all 446 children, their teachers, cooks, carers and admin staff and demonstrated the importance of some basic hygiene rules, mainly focusing on hand washing.

    The school is lucky that it has a plentiful water supply which is piped to the ablution block, kitchen and dormitories. However, there is no hot water and soap was in short supply.

    Thanks to a generous donation from Unilever, I was able to give everyone at the school a bar of Lifebuoy soap.Soap for children

    I used some of Unilever’s “School of 5” materials which are accredited by the RSPH. Whilst I could not follow the full programme due to time constraints, I am hopeful that I have left the teachers with the skills to continue reinforcing the hygiene messages we discussed in classes.

    School of 5The children learned about the 5 most important times to wash their hands.

    I thought it was important to tell them some of our dreadful statistics about lack of hand washing in the UK – the food handlers who fail, and the 50% of office staff who don’t wash their hands after visiting the toilet – despite the fact that we have such easy access to hot water, soap and towels. They were shocked!

    In addition to hand washing, I talked about brushing teeth, and took a toothbrush for everyone.

    The pupils promised to follow the “School of 5” and their teachers will remind them every day. However, just to be on the safe side, I thought I would put some stickers up in the toilets to keep the message fresh -a bit big brother, (or sister) but maybe it will work!Hand wash

    As I had noticed that there was no soap around in the toilet blocks, I decided to take a trip to the local hardware shop and bought soap dispenser to put on the walls – anything left loose disappears, so the bars of soap were personal possessions for the children, and could not be left on the basins unattended. With the help of Radek, who works at the school, three boys learned how to use a drill and rawl plugs and we put up the dispensers, and didn’t forget the kitchen! Putting up dispensers

    The next challenge is to ensure that there is enough liquid soap to keep the dispensers stocked up. That takes money, and Zamcog needs sponsorship and regular donations – you can be a friend of Shitima House for £10 per month or sponsor a child for £500 per year. alternatively, giving to the fund-raising account will send the money directly to Zamcog to keep the school running.

    Finally on the last day we had the opportunity to meet guardians, parents or grandparents of those children who had someone to look after them at home. See my next blog for what we told them!

    Class with LA


  • Hand Washing – a Tale of Two Cities and Two Worlds

    Hotel luxury bathroom with soap and two wash basinsIn January 2012 I had the disturbing experience of staying in a world class luxury hotel in Cape Town and then visiting a township less than 10 miles away where the occupants lived in abject poverty.

    In my hotel room I had two wash basins, a separate shower, an enormous bath and a huge collection of towels, shampoo bottles and bars of soap, all of which were replaced as soon as I had used them once.

    Diarrhoea causes around 1.5 million children to die each year (UNICEF / WHO, 2009) and one of the most cost-effective interventions is hand washing with soap. In the local township, a project to improve hygiene and hand washing had been undertaken by Dettol which had shown through interventions of educational programmes, cascade training and provision of soap and cleaning materials, that there had been a significant decrease in morbidity. There are plenty of other studies giving the same evidence of the benefits of hand washing.

    Hand Washing Station in South African Township

    In the townships where there was no running water, the women in the programme had rigged up an ingenious washing station with a pair of old tights to hold the soap and an old 2L fizzy drinks container with water and a tube coming out of the top. Squeeze the bottle, water comes out, use the soap and squeeze again for more water and a final rinse. So hygienic and simple – a no-touch system after the washing process and air dry in the hot sun.

    One aspect of changing behaviour is that people will undertake some form of cost-benefit analysis – what is in it for them? do the benefits outweigh the cost? One thing that struck me was how much trouble it was to wash your hands when there is no running water or soap, and yet in countries where these things are in abundance, a high percentage of the population fails to wash their hands after using the toilet.

    In the townships, a main driver for the women to implement change of behaviour for themselves and their families was not just the threat of disease, it was the fact that to get to a hospital with a sick child could involve a 4 hour walk, where rape was a likely consequence on the way; even when they arrived, if the hospital had seen its quota of patients that day, then they faced a return trip with equal perils and would need to repeat the whole thing the next day.

    We live in a culture in the developed world where we have become complacent – we think we are invincible – not likely to get ill, or if we do we have confidence in the antibiotics that for so long have saved us from severe illness or death from infectious diseases. But things are changing -more and more antibiotic resistant organisms are emerging, not only in hospitals but throughout the community and at the same time fewer new antibiotics are being created. Basic hygiene skills will be needed even more than ever.

    At the end of June I am visiting an Aids Orphanage in Kabwe, two hours drive from Lusaka in Zambia where I am running a hand washing programme for all the children and will talk about the importance of hand washing and to provide them with some soap to start them off. We will also be making hand washing stations using recycled materials for those who live in the nearby shanty town to take back home with a bar of soap. Maybe it’s a shot in the dark but perhaps one or two people may take some notice.

    I am hoping to raise £2000 for the school before I go – this will pay for four children to be housed and educated for a year – can you spend a penny (or 20,000)? I am paying for all my expenses so the money goes directly to the school – you are not funding a mid-life crisis trip!

    Click here to sponsor:

    To find out more about the Orphanage and Zamcog click here and watch the video.


  • Slugs, Snails, & Puppy-dog tails!

    dirty hands

    Are men really dirtier than women? Recent studies have suggested that women are more likely to wash their hands than men after going to the loo.


    Hand washing is in the news – it even made the Radio 4 Today programme two days running, and I was asked onto the Radio 5 Live Richard Bacon show to talk about the subject (no mention of sport thankfully, they would have got a blank)!

    One theme is that we know men are worse at washing their hands than women generally; (See my blog from October Real Men Wash Their Hands!) but the question I was asked by a researcher yesterday was why? And the answer is, we don’t really know.

    Could it because of our different anatomies – not to get too technical – women may touch their nether regions a bit more even after a number 1 and therefore are more conscious of washing their hands. Maybe men don’t like the smell of soap? Perhaps they are in more of a rush? There is room for so much research here!

    Hand washing is the single biggest, and cheapest, means of reducing the spread of infectious diseases world-wide. Millions of people die from infectious disease round the world every year, and many of these illnesses are preventable – hand washing could play a massive part in reducing illness – but that isn’t just a quick swill under the tap – 20 seconds are recommended, and the use of soap makes hand washing so much more effective.

    So how can we get everyone to wash their hands more? One thing that was suggested on Radio 4 today was the need for signage – let’s remind people why they need to wash their hands, and encourage them to do it by putting a sign up – best place – above the urinal and on the back of the toilet door. This used to be law for food businesses, yet despite the fact that 1/3 of caterers have admitted they don’t wash their hands after using the toilet, there has been no drive to get signs back up on the toilet doors.

    At our office, we have some signs I have made up which can be amusing, and we’re very keen to make any more that may be useful – if anyone has an idea, we can produce it! On waterproof labels, it’s a quick fix to get the message over.

    Hand Washing Sign Duo.jpg

  • School Science Class Year 5

    Making School Science Exciting – and encouraging good hygiene practices!

    Dr Lisa Ackerley, The Hygiene Doctor

    I was asked to run a science class at a local school for 40 Year 5 children (aged 9-10). Using an ultra-violet light torch and glow-in-the-dark powder, we carried out 3 experiments to bring microbiology to life and show how invisible organisms can spread. Some of the children had seen me doing something very similar on GMTV in the summer.

    Bacteria are Invisible, but they are Everywhere

    First I explained that you can’t see bacteria and viruses with the naked eye, and that whilst most micro-organisms are harmless, some can cause illness, and these are called pathogens. Our experiments were to demonstrate how bacteria and viruses could spread. Because the powder is invisible in bright light, it is very useful to show how invisible micro-organisms can transfer from hand to hand or surface to surface around the home.

    Hand to Hand Transfer of BacteriaUV light reveals dirty hands

    Group one was asked to form a line and the first girl shook my hand, then turned round and shook the hand of the girl behind and so on to the end. Then we dimmed the lights and using the torch we could see the spread of the powder from one girl to the next. This demonstrated how germs could spread via hands. The powder was still visible on the 7th hand! Obviously the importance of hand-washing was becoming evident….

    Uv torch reveals dirty clothTea Towels – How they can Transfer Bacteria

    Group 2 used a tea towel to wipe dry some wet drinking beakers. What they didn’t know is that I had put some of the powder on the tea towel! When we shone the torch on the cups, the powder could be seen on the inside of the cups. This showed how important it is to wash the tea towel regularly so that you are not putting bacteria onto your clean crockery and cutlery when drying up.

    Cleaning – can make things Dirtier!

    Group 3 were asked to go and “clean” some surfaces in the classroom with a cloth – and guess what? There was some glow in the dark powder on the cloth too. So when we shone the torch on the surfaces, we saw how the powder had transferred to surfaces. This demonstrated how dangerous a dirty cloth could be. I told them about all the dirty cloths we found in the UK survey, many of them with E.coli on.

    Toilet HygieneGreen is clean swabs show up dirty surfaces

    Group 4 used the “green is clean” swab to see if there were any dirty areas in the toilets and classroom – but well done school cleaners – all was sparkling!!

    Hand Washing

    Finally, as the powder was now on nearly everyone’s hands, I played a little trick, and asked everyone to go and wash their hands. Then I used the torch to see who had done it properly – oh dear! We then had a discussion on how to make sure that the backs of hands are washed, between the fingers and nails. The time it takes to sing “happy birthday to you” all the way through twice is how long you should take. So I guess it will be quite noisy at the sinks now – sorry teachers!!

    We then gave out homework sheets and one task was to invent a bug, draw a picture of it and give it a name.

    Teachers: For a session plan and UV powder and a torch contact us: info@thehygienedoctor.co.uk

     UV Germ kit