Grandparents, your hands are amazing. But we all need to know this about our hand hygiene.

This new study is alarming, but what simple steps would a medical professional recommend we take to help our loved ones as they depart a hospital stay?

If you're a grandparent, your hands are amazing.

Image from Jessie Jacobson/Flickr.


Your hands might be soft and warm, meant for hugging grandkids or making batches of cookies. Or maybe they're a bit more worn, bearing the scars of years of hard work. After all, they're the same hands that may have raised a family or built a house or driven across the country uphill both ways without air conditioning. Your hands carry the legacy of everything you've created in your lifetime.

But if you're a senior and were recently in the hospital, your hands might be carrying something else too.

Roughly 1 in 4 seniors leaving the hospital and going to other care facilities may be carrying superbugs on their hands, according to a new study from the University of Michigan Health System.

Superbugs, also known as multidrug-resistant organisms (MDROs), are bacteria that have grown immune to antibiotic drugs, making them incredibly hard to treat and potentially deadly.

One of the most common superbugs is MRSA, seen here under powerful magnification. Image from Janice Carr/CDC/Wikimedia Commons.

"There are 2 million people who become infected with bacteria resistant to antibiotics," study author Dr. Lona Mody said in an interview, "and about 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these resistant infections."

The results of the study suggest seniors picked up the superbugs while in the hospital — but the really scary thing is that while carrying the bugs on their hands doesn't necessarily mean those seniors will get sick, they can still transmit them to other people around them.

There has been a huge focus on making sure doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff have good hand hygiene, but Dr. Mody's study highlights the importance of educating and enabling patients to stay bug-free when they leave the hospital as well.

The good news: There are some really easy steps anyone who's been in the hospital recently can take to protect themselves and others.

The new study focused on seniors going to care facilities, but these rules could apply to anyone who has stayed in a hospital recently. So without further ado:

1. The best thing is also the simplest: Wash your hands with soap and water.

While this might seem obvious, there's actually a specific twist on this piece of advice based on the results of Dr. Mody's study — it turns out that while doctors and nurses already have to regularly wash their hands, most hospitals don't ask the patients to do the same.

Image from Arlington County/Flickr.

Hospitals should do this! No matter how scary a superbug may be, a good scrub with soap and water will usually eliminate any potential threat before it gets too far.

Dr. Mody also recommends that hospitals pay attention to the layout of a patient's room, which could make it difficult for them to get to a sink. If hospitals and care facilities work with patients to figure out how to make it easy for everyone to practice good hand hygiene, we can prevent these superbugs from spreading earlier on.

2. If you can't get to soap and water, alcohol gel disinfectants work too — and antibacterial soaps are not your friend.

If you can't get to a sink, "alcohol gel is an excellent alternative to using soap and water for hand hygiene," says Dr. Mody.

Image from Gadini/Pixabay.

You can leave the antibacterial soaps behind, though. After 40 years of government study, the FDA concluded that antibacterial soaps don't actually do much to curb bacteria.

In fact, when it comes to preventing the spread of superbugs, reaching for antibacterial and antibiotic products too soon may actually be harmful, because...

3. Too many antibiotics may actually make more superbugs.

Besides good hygiene, Dr. Mody says people can also help reduce the creation of superbugs by using antibiotics and antibacterial products as a last resort, rather than turning to them first.

MRSA bacteria under a microscope. Image via CDC/Wikimedia Commons.

Normally, antibiotics kill enough of an infection to keep us healthy. But sometimes, bacteria can mutate and pick up resistances to the drug. Haphazard use of antibiotics encourages these mutations and makes it easier for the newly dangerous bacteria to spread.

Using antibiotics more wisely, as Dr. Mody recommends, can help curb the spread of the superbugs.

What does this mean for you? Be more thoughtful about when to ask for them — antibiotics don't work for viral infections like the flu, for example. And many common infections, like ear infections, may not always need antibiotics — you should talk to your doctor and see what they think before requesting them.

4. That said, if you are on antibiotics, make sure you take all of them.

Image from freegr/Pixabay.

Don't just stop taking them when you're feeling better. If you stop early, there's a chance that a few superbug hangers-on will survive and become resistant to the drugs! Taking all your antibiotics will ensure that you get 'em all the first time around.

These steps may seem simple, but they're powerful.

Whether you're a hospital staffer who can reorganize a patient's room or remind them to wash their hands before they head out the door, or a grandparent eager to play with your grandkids, following these steps will help make sure we're all able to hug, touch, and play with our family and friends without fear of getting anyone sick.

Image from debowscyfoto/Pixabay.

Family

I'm staring at my screen watching the President of the United States speak before a stadium full of people in North Carolina. He launches into a lie-laced attack on Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Send her back! Send her back! Send her back!"

The President does nothing. Says nothing. He just stands there and waits for the crowd to finish their outburst.

WATCH: Trump rally crowd chants 'send her back' after he criticizes Rep. Ilhan Omar www.youtube.com

My mind flashes to another President of the United States speaking to a stadium full of people in North Carolina in 2016. A heckler in the crowd—an old man in uniform holding up a TRUMP sign—starts shouting, disrupting the speech. The crowd boos. Soon they start chanting, "Hillary! Hillary! Hillary!"

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via EarthFix / Flickr

What will future generations never believe that we tolerated in 2019?

Dolphin and orca captivity, for sure. They'll probably shake their heads at how people died because they couldn't afford healthcare. And, they'll be completely mystified at the amount of food some people waste while others go starving.

According to Biological Diversity, "An estimated 40 percent of the food produced in the United States is wasted every year, costing households, businesses and farms about $218 billion annually."

There are so many things wrong with this.

First of all it's a waste of money for the households who throw out good food. Second, it's a waste of all of the resources that went into growing the food, including the animals who gave their lives for the meal. Third, there's something very wrong with throwing out food when one in eight Americans struggle with hunger.

Supermarkets are just as guilty of this unnecessary waste as consumers. About 10% of all food waste are supermarket products thrown out before they've reached their expiration date.

Three years ago, France took big steps to combat food waste by making a law that bans grocery stores from throwing away edible food.According to the new ordinance, stores can be fined for up to $4,500 for each infraction.

Previously, the French threw out 7.1 million tons of food. Sixty-seven percent of which was tossed by consumers, 15% by restaurants, and 11% by grocery stores.

This has created a network of over 5,000 charities that accept the food from supermarkets and donate them to charity. The law also struck down agreements between supermarkets and manufacturers that prohibited the stores from donating food to charities.

"There was one food manufacturer that was not authorized to donate the sandwiches it made for a particular supermarket brand. But now, we get 30,000 sandwiches a month from them — sandwiches that used to be thrown away," Jacques Bailet, head of the French network of food banks known as Banques Alimentaires, told NPR.

It's expected that similar laws may spread through Europe, but people are a lot less confident at it happening in the United States. The USDA believes that the biggest barrier to such a program would be cost to the charities and or supermarkets.

"The logistics of getting safe, wholesome, edible food from anywhere to people that can use it is really difficult," the organization said according to Gizmodo. "If you're having to set up a really expensive system to recover marginal amounts of food, that's not good for anybody."

Plus, the idea may seem a little too "socialist" for the average American's appetite.

"The French version is quite socialist, but I would say in a great way because you're providing a way where they [supermarkets] have to do the beneficial things not only for the environment, but from an ethical standpoint of getting healthy food to those who need it and minimizing some of the harmful greenhouse gas emissions that come when food ends up in a landfill," Jonathan Bloom, the author of American Wasteland, told NPR.

However, just because something may be socialist doesn't mean it's wrong. The greater wrong is the insane waste of money, damage to the environment, and devastation caused by hunger that can easily be avoided.

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What someone wears, regardless of gender, is a personal choice. Sadly, many folks like Maryann White, mother of four sons, think women's attire — particularly women's leggings are a threat to men.

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