Public hand dryers could backfire, study says

Public hand dryers or hand dryers They are electrical appliances that are placed in the bathrooms of institutions health, education, in shopping centers or other spaces where many people circulate.

As the name implies, they are used to dry hands once they have been washed. And its reason for being obeys two principles: saving and ecology. In the long run they are cheaper than hand towels and you don't have to cut down trees to make them.

In basic terms, the hand dryers public expel hot air coming from from the same space where they are, circulating it. It could be said that they recycle and heat the air that is inside the bathroom.

This mode of operation is what has led to the question of whether they are safe or not. Evidence found in recent studies has questioned public hand dryers, as they could be contaminating already washed hands.

Hand disinfection

Since we are children, we hear adults recommend washing our hands before eating, after leaving the bathroom, after having done some manual work, when returning from the street. We now make the same recommendation to our children.

In these and other circumstances, washing is something we do to avoid contracting diseasesFrom the common cold to hepatitis and diarrhea.

These health disorders are often caused by viruses and bacteria that are on the hands and can come into contact with the mucous membranes. Some are harmless, but other microorganisms become dangerous. And something as simple as washing your hands properly it is a preventive hygiene measure that we must observe.

In this way, we not only prevent ourselves from getting sick, but we also reduce the chances of spreading infections. This is crucial for food handlers and health service personnel.

Hand washing is efficient for the control of microorganisms. The risk of getting sick is greatly reduced.

Keep reading: The importance of washing your hands

What do studies say about public hand dryers?

Some time ago, public offices, private companies, educational and health institutions decided to eliminate paper towels to dry hands in public toilets, since they generated waste and affected the environment.

Consequently, it was decided replace towels with public hand dryers. But it seems that the remedy has turned out to be worse than the disease. What would be achieved with hand washing would be contaminated with the use of the dryer.

In a recent study, hand dryers in both men's and women's bathrooms were examined at a health center. It was done to detect bacteria using plates that were exposed to the dryer for a period of time.

The research results indicated that there are many types of bacteria, including potential pathogens and spores, those that can be deposited in the hands of the people when they use the dryers in the public toilets.

That is to say, after being washed, the hands become contaminated again from hot air, which may contain fecal bacteria.

Continuing with the investigation, when air filters were placed in the dryers the concentration of bacteria decreased. This allowed to conclude that the bacteria are in the air of the bathrooms. The findings suggest that when you pull the lever to flush the toilet, a certain amount of microbes get into the air.

Several similar studies have confirmed such findings, showing that public hand dryers can be a source of bacterial contamination. Even in another investigation, the different methods of drying hands were compared and it was concluded that the bacterial counts were higher for the air dryer in contrast to the paper towel.

However, they are not all of the same mind. Some other studies state that there is no conclusive evidence, as the data lack the key variables necessary to assess true risks of infection. Even some research goes so far as to state that the use of public hand dryers is no more likely than the paper towel.

Don't stop reading: Make your own liquid soap and antibacterial hand gel at home

Possible risks when using hand dryers

It is noteworthy that some of the microbes found in the air in bathrooms may not cause illness or not affect healthy people. Although among them there are also other more harmful ones, such as Staphylococcus aureus.

In addition, the presence of Acinetobacter, which can cause infections in people with weak immune systems or hospitalized patients. And this is delicate, especially when it comes to hand dryers in hospital bathrooms, which are used by medical personnel.

Finally, beyond those that are present in the bathroom air, germs on people's hands are also spread by the effect of the hot air of the dryer, which works like an aerosol.

How can we dry our hands?

You may be wondering if it would be best not to dry your hands. This is not the right option. According to research, the transmission of bacteria is more likely when the skin is moist.

The first and best option would be to dry yourself with a clean towel. Of course, we can do this if we are at home or in the workplace, where we have privacy.

And even in this context you have to wash towels regularly. In the event that there are people with a disease at home, it would be advisable to use paper napkins while the problem lasts.

Regarding public toilets, based on the results observed in most of the studies, the suggestion is to use paper towels to dry your hands. They better absorb moisture and help eliminate bacteria that remain after washing, reducing contamination levels.

Cloth towels and paper towels, if they are to be used for hand drying, must be washed properly.

How to prevent the use of a public hand dryer?

Bacteria deposited by hand dryers have not been shown to be a direct cause of disease. In fact, for those with a healthy immune system it shouldn't be a problem.

There is no doubt that, for sick or immunocompromised people, they constitute a potential risk. And let us remember that we do not live alone in the world; on the contrary, we are always in contact with others.

Now, it is best to dry ourselves with our own towel, as long as it is clean. However, when we go out and need to go to a public toilet, we will find ourselves with the dilemma.

If there are paper towels, no problems. But if there are only public hand dryers, the option is to always have, in a purse or in the car, a box of paper towels for personal use. This way we will avoid risks.