It is age-old advice and the cornerstone of parental wisdom. Three simple words: “Wash your hands.” It helps keep you and others around you healthy. It’s quite basic. So, why did a recent study find that 23 percent of men do not wash their hands after using the restroom?  Roughly 12 percent of women are just as guilty. Disease-causing germs are everywhere, yet not everyone is taking the necessary precautions.

You can pick up bacteria almost anywhere, even places that appear to be clean. Health Magazine lists some of the “germiest” areas as: airplane lavatories, public drinking fountains, shopping cart handles, ATM machines and the hotel remote control. Think of items in public that are touched by hundreds, if not thousands, of hands every day. Those hands carry bacteria from touching other contaminated sources. According to the Mayo Clinic, people become sick when they come into contact with bacteria. It is as easy as rubbing your nose after pressing the elevator button or using a doorknob. Also, it is not just places outside your home that carry germs. Your kitchen sink, your bathtub and other wet surfaces are breeding grounds for bacteria.

Upon entering your body, certain germs can mutate and grow resistant to antibiotics, which can make you sick for a longer period of time. For example, John Hopkins Magazine recently documented a case of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (more commonly called MRSA). As the name implies, this group of common staph germs withstood the antibiotic methicillin and housed its own toxins that eventually put a man in the hospital for weeks. Drug-resistant germs like MRSA can be deadly and easily spread around. Good hygiene is the best form of defense against such infections.

For those of you who diligently wash your hands after using the restroom and before meals, you definitely have the right idea. However, take it a step further. How long do you wash your hands? Is it a quick rinse or a thorough scrub? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has these tips for making the most of your time at the sink:

  • Use soap and warm water.
  • Lather up by rubbing the front and back of your hands. Don’t forget to get under your fingernails.
  • Count to 20 while rubbing your hands together. If you need a point of reference, sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice all the way through.
  • Rinse your hands under running water.
  • Dry with a paper towel or air dryer.
  • If applicable, open the door with a paper towel.

Make washing your hands a habit throughout the day. The CDC suggests washing up before eating, after going to any bathroom (including your own), after diaper changes, after taking out the garbage and after handling animals or animal waste. Be especially mindful to wash often when you are sick or dealing with sick people. If you are not able to find soap and water, cleanse your hands with alcohol-based anti-bacterial soap; it’s a gel that you can carry with you anywhere.

You can make the world a safer place from germs and disease. For more information on the benefits of clean hands, go to the Centers for Disease Control’s website, Clean Hands Save Lives. Find more good reasons to wash up on the Toronto-based website

[Jennifer E. Jones]