As people across the country await the availability of vaccines for H1N1 virus (previously referred to as Swine Flu), health officials have recommended several personal hygiene measures to prevent the spread of the disease.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) advises to do the following:

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. Keep away from others as much as possible to keep from making others sick.

While these recommendations do not specifically suggest it, so many people are under the impression that only warm water can help clean hands from viruses. This impression is supported by numerous sources and websites. However, it is important to note that the claim that only hot water is effective in killing the virus is not based on scientific evidence. In fact, a 2005 study had shown that water temperature is not a factor at all.

Water temperatures can be classified as cold (less than 65˚F), cool to tepid (65-90˚F), warm (90-98˚F), and hot (98-105˚F). The normal body temperature is 98.6˚F. Subjects in the study had their hands contaminated with bacteria/viruses, and then were asked to wash their hands with soap and water that varied from cold to hot. The findings showed than the various temperatures had no effect on bacteria/virus reduction. Rather, it is the actual mechanical action of hand washing that really mattered.

In brief hand washing at any temperature is an effective way to prevent yourself from contracting H1N1 virus. And you are since you will be washing your hands several times per day, you can do without the skin irritation that might be caused by hot water.