Here is the 4-1-1 About Handwashing That You Need to Know
Here in the Midwest, we’re seeing stories about how widespread the flu epidemic has become. Locally, our hospitals are treating about 33 percent more cases than last year and in the first eight days of 2018, they treated 150 more cases than last year, which was one of the worst years ever. And in every newspaper article, blog, or television news segment, they remind people that one of the best ways to fight the flu bug is by washing your hands.
But, you know what drives most of us crazy? Despite every health official in the world—and even some who aren’t doctors but play one on TV—saying that washing your hands frequently is the #1 way to avoid getting sick, many people don’t do it.
Let’s be honest, however. Pretty much all of us have been in a restroom, dutifully washing our hands after using the facilities, when the sound of a toilet flushing precedes someone emerging from the stall. Then, that person just walks right past the sinks and calmly walks out, grasping the door handle with their vile germ-encrusted hand. Totally skipping the handwashing? Seriously? Holy e coli, Batman! Ewwwww!
It’s bad enough when it happens out in a public restroom like the gas station, and even worse when it happens in a restaurant. (“Would madam care for a staph infection with her coq au vin?”) But the worst is when it happens in the office. Yeah, you know who I’m talking about. You might want to believe that you just have one co-worker that doesn’t wash his or her hands after using the restroom, but you’re probably wrong. Non-hand washers are like wolves. They always travel in packs.
While 92 percent of Americans say they believe it’s important to wash their hands after using the restroom, only 66 percent actually do. That’s according to a survey conducted by the Bradley Corporation, an international maker of commercial handwashing products. Even worse, 70 percent of that 66 percent admit to not using soap when they wash their hands. What the frack?! Then, what’s the point, people? You’re just giving the millions of bacteria on your hands a bath, not killing them.
The survey also found that the majority of Americans come up short on how long they wash their hands. Nearly 60 percent of Americans wash their hands for just 15 seconds or less, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing with soap for at least 20 seconds to allow enough time to remove and rinse off germs.
“Universally, proper handwashing practices – whether it be at home, health care facilities, schools or community gatherings – are proven to help stave off germs that cause sickness,” says Jon Dommisse, director of global marketing and strategic development for Bradley Corporation. “In addition to cold and flu germs, handwashing with soap minimizes the transmission of other ailments seen on a global level like diarrhea, pneumonia and other contagious diseases.”
One of the great bathroom sink signs I ever saw was 30 years ago at a Bob Evans restaurant. It said that singing one refrain of “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” lasted about 25 seconds, so use soap and warm water while singing a song. My wife and I taught that trick to our young children. I now have four adult kids that occasionally hum Old MacDonald when they’re washing up at my sink. At least I taught them something.
Handwashing is no laughing matter
Sure, it’s easy to giggle about not washing your hands thinking that you’re not hurting anyone, but you are. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), bathrooms are the places in our lives where bacteria really gather together to create havoc. And, it’s not always where you think the bacteria hide out. For many people, after using the bathroom, they‘ll have about 200 million bacteria per square inch on your hands. And a lot of that is from fecal matter. Yes … poop. Worse yet … it’s not just YOUR poop. It’s everyone’s that has used that bathroom since the last time it was properly cleaned. And how often do you really think most bathrooms get properly cleaned? In addition, a large part of those 200 million germs were carried into the bathroom from other places. But after using the facilities, and not washing your hands, you’re leaving many of those little critters behind for your co-workers to find.
But, let’s get back to the poop. How bad is fecal bacteria? It actually causes a catastrophic amount of disease annually across the globe. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 1.8 million children under the age of 5 die each year from diarrheal diseases and pneumonia. They’re the top two killers of young children around the world. That’s more than AIDS, malaria and measles combined.
Handwashing with soap protects about 1 out of every 3 young children who would otherwise get sick with diarrhea, and almost 1 out of 5 young children with respiratory infections like pneumonia. And, don’t think it’s just in poor third world countries.
It’s right here in the USA too.
The State of California has an epidemic of Hepatitis A on its hands in San Diego, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles, as well as other parts of Southern California. Nearly 700 cases have flared up and 21 people have died so far. It’s the largest outbreak in the United States in decades. Hep A causes inflammation of the liver and makes it harder for the organ to function properly. It can last from a few weeks to several months.
And health officials say the best way to fight Hep A is? You guessed it … by washing your hands and using hand sanitizer.
Check your pockets then start washing your hands
It’s estimated that at least 10 percent of all credit cards are covered with fecal germs. Cell phones? 16 percent. And, a whopping 94 PERCENT of dollar bills. And, let’s be real … those are probably low estimates. Especially that phone or tablet you’re using when sitting on the toilet. Yeah … you know you do.
So when you’re chatting on your phone and hand the nice hotdog vendor a $10 bill for your lunch and then immediately shove the dog down your pie hole without washing your hands, well … I’ll just leave you to guess why your tummy hurts during your 10:00 meeting the next day.