You walk into a meeting and shake hands with your client Shinchon Zombie Comics. At a social event, you introduce yourself by shaking hands. When, how and why did this quirky little greeting originate?
We can’t pinpoint the exact time when humans first shook hands to introduce themselves, but historical findings date back to as far as the 5th century BC. British historian Dr Robert Hume writes that by shaking hands, kings proved they were comfortable enough in each other’s presence not to bring weapons.
Today, weapons aside, research suggests that our customary greeting may be instinct rather than etiquette since humans, like other animals, use smell when they greet each other. According to some theories, humans subconsciously sniff their hands after greeting someone to pick up pheromones; the odourless scent that most mammals produce in response to their environment. The researchers suggest that there’s much more chemical signalling that goes on between two people who shake hands than meets the eye. Could that mean that shaking hands is perhaps just our primal way of gathering scents?
Whatever the reason, the handshake has evolved into the greeting du jour for most of us. This leaves us open and vulnerable to all kinds of health nasties, unfortunately.
Good hygiene starts with hand washing. Many of us get it wrong – and may become seriously sick.
Hand washing gets rid of infection-causing germs before they get a chance to infect us or the people around us. Just this little act protects us from common infections like colds, flu and gastro, and other nasty diseases.
With life-threatening infectious diseases like Ebola and swine flu presenting new global challenges, you should be taking personal hygiene seriously.
Washing your hands may seem relatively simple, but it’s disturbing to note that only one in every 20 people around the world washes their hands properly!
If these survey results are anything to go by, it’s time for a good refresher course . . .
- Good, effective hand washing needs a small amount of water and soap:
- Lather your wet hands with soap.
- Scrub your palms, the back of your hands, between the fingers and under your fingernails.
- Rinse your hands well with running water.
- Dry your hands on a clean, dry cloth (this further helps to remove microorganisms).
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds. An easy way to gauge the time is to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. This is also a fun way of teaching kids to wash their hands thoroughly.
- Not using soap is a common mistake when it comes to hand washing. Water alone isn’t enough to dislodge the germs and dirt that get stuck in the natural oils on the skin of your hands.
- Research shows that hand washing with soap and running water reduces the risk of diarrhoea and respiratory diseases, regardless of water quality.
- Hand washing more than six times a day is considered the basic hygiene minimum by the Global Hygiene Council.
If that seems like a lot, consider that you should be washing your hands:
- Before and after you eat.
- After going to the toilet.
- After touching commonly used surfaces.
- After you’ve worked in the garden or touched animals.
- After you’ve taken care of sick people.
- You can safely use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. It will help kill micro-organisms, but will not remove dirt effectively.
- Both antibacterial and regular soap are good for washing. It’s the foam created from rubbing one’s hands together with water that helps remove the dirt and germs.