An Ounce of Prevention In Your Hands

Do you wash your hands after using a public rest room… after changing a diaper… before eating?

Chances are if you answer a telephone poll you will say you do because you know you should.

A study reported on in HealthDay News found that 85 percent of Americans wash their hands after using a public bathroom in 2010, compared with only 77 percent in 2007. The observational study was conducted at six locations in four cities.

A separate survey done by phone found that 96 percent of Americans said they always wash their hands after using public bathrooms. Sometimes what we say and what we do is at odds.

Amazingly, only 82 percent of respondents said they wash their hands after changing a diaper! Seventy-seven percent said they always wash their hands before eating. Most of us still donít wash our hands after coughing or sneezing. Women rank higher than men in all categories.

Itís not only Americans who need to improve their hygiene. Last year, a study published by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine found that that less than one-third of men and two-thirds of women wash their hands with soap after using the restroom. Researchers studied the behavior of a quarter of a million people using restrooms in Britain and used sensors to monitor soap use.

With school back in session and cold and flu season upon us, this is a great time to remind ourselves and our children that hand washing is the simplest — and cheapest — way to avoid getting sick. This simple act helps prevent spread of the common cold, diarrheal diseases, respiratory infections, MRSA, food-borne illnesses such as salmonella and E. coli, and seasonal flu, among other things.

In the home, frequent hand washing, especially before and after food preparation, eating, diaper changing, coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose, and using the bathroom will help prevent germs from spreading among family members. Itís the best way to avoid getting sick!

In hospitals, clinics, and doctorsí offices, frequent hand washing can prevent deadly infections from spreading between health care workers and patients.

Next: Thereís a right way and a wrong way to wash your hands…

There is a right way and a wrong way to wash your hands. The wrong way would be to give your hands an obligatory rinse with water because no one is looking. The right way, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, is:

  • Wet your hands with clean running water and apply soap. Use warm water if it is available.
  • Rub hands together to make a lather and scrub all surfaces.
  • Continue rubbing hands for 15-20 seconds.
  • Rinse hands well under running water.
  • Dry your hands using a paper towel or air dryer. If possible, use your paper towel to turn off the faucet.

The Mayo Clinic adds this precaution: antibacterial soap is no more effective at killing germs than is regular soap. Using antibacterial soap may even lead to the development of bacteria that are resistant to the product’s antimicrobial agents ó making it harder to kill these germs in the future.

If you cannot wash using soap and water, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (it should contain 60 percent alcohol) which doesnít require water is an good alternative. Use enough to wet your hands completely and rub for up to 25 seconds or until dry.

While weíre at it, letís not forget to clean surfaces around the home often, especially in the kitchen, where improper handling and preparation of food and cross-contamination are a leading cause of food-borne illness.

Weíve known about the benefits of hand washing for a long time. When it comes to taking responsibility for our own health, nothing could be easier.

Writer Ann Pietrangelo embraces the concept of personal responsibility for health and wellness. As a person living with multiple sclerosis, she combines a healthy lifestyle and education with modern medicine, and seeks to provide information and support to others. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and a regular contributor to Care2 Causes. Follow on Twitter @AnnPietrangelo


Susan R.
.3 years ago

Thanks for sharing

kathrynelizabet Etier

I wish I could convince my young granddaughters that hand washing will keep them healthier.

Ruth R.
Ruth R4 years ago

Thank you for their information.
How long will the skin last with this kind of washing treatment?

Annemarie Derheim

What to do if you observe someone in a public washroom come out of the stall and then make a beeline for the exit without washing their hands? I've observed this and it makes me sick! Dare a person say something?

Carole R.
Carole R4 years ago

Thanks for the reminders.
Everyone needs to remember to wash their hands regularly.

Kelly R5 years ago

Mom was right, damn it.

Mike V.
Mike V.7 years ago

just wash your hands, its easy

Geetha Subramaniam

Thanks for the posting.

Iti S.
Iti S.7 years ago

To me over protection from germs makes our immune system fragile and ill prepared for situations when one has got no option but to compromise. I never over indulged in hygiene and so must have fallen sick often in my childhood days. But as i grew i am so much less prone to catch virals, flu, cold n cough, stomach upsets etc.

Leisha A.
Leisha A7 years ago

Question: I've always wondered if, after washing/sanitizing, does the lotion I then apply to dried skin, from above activity,
reintroduce bacteria/germs? Help