“Wash your hands,” is the most basic healthy habit that everyone is repeatedly asked to practice. But still, many such habits that have direct consequences on our health are taken very lightly and ignored. To demonstrate the risks of not having the habit of washing hands and sanitizing the surroundings, elementary school teachers in Idaho conducted an experiment with students of third grade. Read on further to know how this experiment stunned the children and the adults and made them realize the gross consequence of not following certain healthy habits.

The Experiment

Dyna Robertson, a teacher and behaviour specialist Jaralee Metcalf at Discovery Elementary Schook in Idaho Falls,  asked 17 students to touch bread slices with hands washed in soap and warm water, disinfected with hand-sanitizers and those that were dirty. Other than this, they took a bread slice and wiped it on the classroom laptops (which were not disinfected) and left one slice of bread fresh and untouched. They then packed the slices of bread in separate air-tight bags and left themt undisturbed for three-four weeks.

The idea was to teach children how important it was to wash their hands, and what could happen if they dodged the habit.

Importance of washing hands
PC: Jaralee Metcalf/Facebook

The experiment revealed the slices of bread to be rotten with different levels of bacterial growth on them. “I don’t even think we expected it to look so drastic,” said Metcalf, according to NY Post.

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The slice of bread that had been wiped on the classroom laptop turned aquamarine with a spread of mould all over.

Importance of washing hands
PC: Jaralee Metcalf/Facebook

The slice touched with dirty hands was blotched with green, white and yellow spots.

Importance of washing hands
PC: Jaralee Metcalf/Facebook

On the other hand, the bread that was handled by hands cleaned using sanitizer too had a spot of mould near the edges.

Importance of washing hands
PC: Jaralee Metcalf/Facebook

The only slice of bread that was clean as before was the one that was untouched; while the one touched by washed hands was next-best clean, with slightly visible spots of mould at the centre.

Importance of washing hands
PC: Jaralee Metcalf/Facebook
Importance of washing hands
PC: Jaralee Metcalf/Facebook

The experiment was conducted at just the right time in December 2019 which is the peak time of viral diseases in the US. However, worldwide, the following months of January and February see the maximum rise in cases of illness due to virus and bacteria, The details and the pictures of the experiment were put up as a Facebook post by Metcalf on December 5, which went viral, earning more than 64,000 shares.

“’ As somebody who is sick and tired of being sick and tired of being sick and tired. Wash your hands! Remind your kids to wash their hands!” she wrote on the Facebook post.

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Hand-sanitizer is not an alternative to washing hands

The experiment made it clear that a hand-sanitizer ‘does not’ clean your hands as thoroughly as washing them does. The bread that was touched by hands that were apparently disinfected using hand-sanitizers had a big yellow and green spot of mould on it. This proves that a hand-sanitizer that contains 60 percent of alcohol is not a substitute for washing the hands with soap and warm water. Metcalf rightly wrote on her Facebook post, “And hand sanitizer is not an alternative to washing hands!! At all!” She has opined that these anti-bacterial gels do not show effective results because they are not used in the right way. “Kids don’t use hand sanitizer … the way it’s supposed to be used,” she explains. Sanitizers should be rubbed on hands for 20 seconds as recommended by the CDC.

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Children are most immune to diseases

According to Daily Mail, children are more susceptible to virus and bacterias that have newly been discovered and are causing fatal diseases. If infected, they can easily spread it to other children they connect with. The Center for Disease Control agrees with the experiment and its results.  “Handwashing reduces the spread of diarrheal and respiratory illnesses (basically the bugs kids seem to be magnets for) so it’s a good idea to teach kids to do it properly and often,” says CDC, quoted in Mother.ly report.

Disinfect your laptops

Moreover, the experiment showed how it is important to clean and disinfect the objects (laptop, books, etc) around us. The bread rubbed on a classroom laptop too had a gross blotch of mould on it. It warns about the germs present on the laptops that are usually ignored and can lead to the worst consequences. Metcalf writes on her Facebook post that the laptop used for the experiment is always sanitized. However, they did not sanitize it before the experiment to demonstrate the result. This underscores the need to disinfect the classrooms, laptops and other objects frequently, and wash hands!

The Experiment has created awareness

Since the post and the pictures went viral, the experiment has been successful in creating awareness among people about the importance of washing hands. “The students all thought it was gross. They have really turned their hand-washing around (since the experiment). They realized that sanitizer doesn’t cut it, and they’ve got to do soap and water,” Robertson told Today.

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“So many teachers have been commenting, saying, ‘I’m totally gonna do this in my class. It’s kind of cool to see that it’s inspired a lot of other people to take a look at how they wash their hands to keep healthy,” said Metcalf

Commenting on how the idea of experiment and visible results helped in bringing this change, Robertson added, “Clearly the nagging didn’t work, so we needed a more hands-on approach to get it figured out, but it worked. They are taking the initiative themselves.”

Rudrani Kumari is an intern with SheThePeople.TV.

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