Hand Washing: Why And How We Really Should Wash Our Hands

2012-05-17 | |
Last updated: 2012-05-17

Knowing that something is the right thing to do is certainly no predictor that we will actually do it. We all know that we should eat healthier, exercise regularly and get more sleep, but few of us will actually make these changes in our lives. Unfortunately, the same holds true when it comes to doing something as simple as washing our hands.

One of the most common public health campaigns that we are likely to see advertised is the need to wash the hands to prevent the spread of disease. Despite extensive funding directed toward public service campaigns, the majority of us are still poor at maintaining such basic hygiene. This means that we are sick more often than we need be and that our actions or inaction can also drastically affect those among us with poorer health.

This is not entirely about people who avoid washing their hands, either. Even the more considerate among us who do wash our hands may actually contribute to the problem despite our best intentions. This is because hand washing is actually more complex than we might actually realize. This means that taking the action to wash our hands and to do it properly is also more important than we might consider.

How Often Do People Wash Their Hands?

Most of us learned the basics of hand washing when we were children. We learned that we should wash our hands before and after we eat and after we use a toilet. We were also taught to wash our hands after getting them dirty outside. We learned this at about the same time as we learned to play nicely with others and to treat people as we would like to be treated. Sadly, we may have “forgotten” both lessons and as a consequence, our collective lack of hygiene means many of us are treating each other rather poorly.

Numerous research studies have identified just how poor our hygiene can be when in comes to washing our hands. In a research study surveying 8000 people funded by the makers of the Lysol brand of disinfectants, the researchers found that 69% of Americans and 75% of Germans admitted to not washing their hands when they should. If these numbers sound high, they are not as other research shows.

Another study by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine in 2009, counted the number of men and women who used public restrooms and washed their hands with soap after using the facilities. The results of the research found that only 2 out of 3 women washed their hands and men were far worse with only 1 in 3 men opting to clean theirs. This means that about half the population using restrooms is leaving with dirty hands.

Once these people are out in public, anything they touch can be contaminated. As an example, research from late last year found that 1 in 6 cell phones that people were using had fecal material on it. This University of London study also found that 82% of the population had bacteria on their hands and 16% of this bacteria was the fecal E. Coli type that causes food poisoning and illness. Quite clearly, there is plenty of opportunity for improvement when it comes to hand washing.

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Category: Disease Prevention, General Health, Health Risks

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