Doctors’ Notes


Hand Washing

I read an article recently in The Wall Street Journal titled, “Why You Shouldn’t Put Your Mouth Where Your Money Is.”

And I thought the subject would make a good “Doc Note.” So here goes…

Scientists are discovering a surprising number of microbes (Bacteria, Viruses, and Fungi) living on cash. Researchers at New York University did a detailed and complex study of the DNA on dollar bills and found that, as bank notes pass from hand to hand, currency is a medium of exchange for hundreds of different kinds of bacteria. By analyzing genetic material, they identified 3000 types of bacteria on dollar bills — including species linked to acne, gastric ulcers, pneumonia, food poisoning and Staph infections.

handwashResearchers said that a wallet with cash (kept at body temperature) is like petri dish used in labs to grow bacteria!. A human touch compounds the problem. Bacteria can feed on the waxy residue of skin and oils that builds up on bills in circulation. Some countries like Canada and the kingdom of Bhutan are now printing bank notes on sheets of flexible polymer film, with the hope of reducing bacterial counts, since that film is less absorbent than typical financial note paper.

On a similar note, a microbiologist colleague of ours took swabs of various areas in a hospital setting — such as door knobs, handles, water pickets, sinks, desks, table tops, stethoscopes, doctors and nurses hands, white coats, elevator doors, etc. — and… you guessed right!…  He was able to culture various bacteria at almost all these sites.

Bottom line: all money is dirty, and bad germs lurk in many unexpected places!

Meticulous hand-washing is the best way to prevent transmission of many diseases. You don’t need an antibacterial agent.

In fact, antibacterial soaps can make some bacteria develop resistance and therefore more dangerous. Only soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer are necessary.

Here’s What You Do

• Rub your hands vigorously at least for 20 seconds.

• Miake sure you get both sides, between fingers and wrists.

• Don’t forget under your fingernails.

• Rinse well.

We should teach our children this process, and the importance of good hand-washing, from an early age.


Dr. K.G. Pai is one of the founding fathers of the Kids Plus practice family.