We all know that we carry bacteria on our hands and that the bacteria increases especially after wiping following a bowel movement. Nearly every American agrees that it is a good idea to wash up after bathroom time and 85% of parents intend to teach their kids to wash hands after using the toilet.
But, it’s not what people say; it’s what they do. In 2013, researchers watched and recorded the habits of 3,749 people in a college town, noting 1) if people washed, 2) how long they washed, 3) if they used soap and 4) if they dried their hands after washing. The results: 10.3% did not wash their hands at all after using the bathroom. Twenty-three percent used water but NO soap.
Time matters: clean hands require 15 seconds of rubbing with soap. In this study, researchers recorded hand washing as the time spent pre-rinsing, using soap (if used at all), rubbing and drying. Only 5% actually spent 15 seconds on the whole process. The average time spent washing hands was 6.27 seconds for men and 7.07 seconds for women.
Other studies confirm improper technique. A 2013 survey asked 1,047 people about hand washing habits. Seventy percent said that they didn’t use soap when washing up.
Germs. Viruses, parasites and bacteria on your hands spread to everything you touch. If you don’t wash, only wash with water or don’t wash long enough, germs\bacteria stay on your hands. All day long, people touch their eyes, nose and mouth, allowing germs to enter the body.
Here are a few of the tough germs let in by poor hygiene.
Norovirus accounts for almost half the stomach “flus” that occur. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.
Cryptosporidium, a microscopic parasite causing a diarrheal disease, can be caught by touching surfaces that someone infected.
Clostridium difficile (C-Diff) is another bacterial illness causing diarrhea and abdominal cramping.
Adenovirus causes common colds, sore throats, stomach inflammation and even bladder infections. A person can “recover” from an adenovirus, yet continue spreading the virus for months.
Here’s hand washing technique that works to decrease the bacteria count on your hands.
1) Wet hands with clean water.
2) Apply soap
3) Rub hands together, (especially around the nails) while singing the Happy Birthday song twice (15 seconds)
4) Rinse off the soap
5) Use a paper towel to turn off the water
6) Use that same paper towel to open the door. Dispose of the paper towel.
Use the paper towel to turn off the water and open the door—it helps keep your hands clean.
Bottom Line: Just remember the 15-second (Happy Birthday song) + soap and water rule, and you may significantly lower your chances of getting sick.