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Study suggests that frequent hand washing cuts coronavirus risk

Washing your hands six to 10 times a day could reduce the risk of catching coronavirus by a third, a study has suggested.

Researchers from University College London tracked 1,633 adults over three winter seasons. Participants reported their daily handwashing habits, and scientists identified cold infections – triggered by coronaviruses – from nasal swabs.

The study found that moderate handwashing, between six and 10 times daily, cut the risk of falling ill by 36 per cent compared to those who washed their hands less frequently.

Washing hands more often than that made little difference, but experts said the findings indicate that handwashing can combat coronaviruses including Covid-19.

Researcher Sarah Beale said: “Given that Covid-19 appears to demonstrate similar transmission mechanisms to seasonal coronaviruses, these findings support clear public health messaging around the protective effects of handwashing during the pandemic.

“Good hand hygiene should be practiced at all times, regardless of whether you show symptoms or not. This will help protect yourself and prevent unwittingly spreading the virus to others around you.”

The study, published in Wellcome Open Research, concludes: “This is the first empirical evidence that regular handwashing can reduce personal risk of acquiring seasonal coronavirus infection.

“These findings support clear public health messaging around the protective effects of hand washing in the context of the current Covid-19 pandemic.”