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Does Hand Washing Spread Germs?

Posting Date: 09/19/2005

Q. I?ve always heard that it is essential to wash your hands after using the restroom. But I think hand washing might be hazardous.

You could pick up germs turning the water off after washing your hands. How do you get out of the restroom without touching the door handle?

Hand washing creates a false sense of security and is not all it?s cracked up to be.

A. Microbiologist Charles Gerba, PhD, confirms that faucet handles in public restrooms are often contaminated with bacteria. So are bathroom door handles. Touching the handles after washing is counterproductive. Dr. Gerba suggests using a paper towel to turn the water on and off and to open the door.

You might carry an alcohol gel for waterless hand sanitizing. A recent study showed that families using alcohol gels were less likely to pass around stomach flu (Pediatrics, Sept., 2005).

Q. Several years ago my arthritis started acting up. I started taking aspirin to relieve my pain and inflammation.

Eventually I consulted a physician. When he discovered I was taking at least 27 regular aspirin tablets a day, he said:

"Mary, you have two choices: either change your medication, or die in a pool of your own blood."

Then he prescribed Lodine (etodolac). In the flap over Vioxx, I have never seen it mentioned. I?ve taken Lodine for ten years when I need it. It eases my arthritis symptoms so much it is like a miracle. How safe is Lodine compared to other arthritis drugs?

A. Decades ago, doctors relied on aspirin to ease inflammation. It was not unusual for them to prescribe 12 to 18 tablets a day for severe arthritis pain.

In acute flare-ups of rheumatic fever, the dose might go up to 24 pills. But at such high levels the drug can cause ringing in the ears and serious stomach ulcers.

Then many nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) were developed to relieve pain. They include diclofenac (Cataflam, Voltaren), etodolac (Lodine), fenoprofen (Nalfon), ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), indomethacin (Indocin), nabumetone (Relafen), and naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn).