Hand Washing the Gateway to Better Health

I have finally recovered from the stomach ache I thought might kill me. After talking to several friends and the mothers of some of my children’s friends I discovered that it is some sort of weird “bug” going around. So just a heads up if you or your child have a horrible stabbing abdominal pain that even hurts to the touch. It probably isn’t an appendix ready to burst.

We joked that perhaps we should look for a meteor laying around town somewhere.

This morning I was reading news online and came across this report that says hand washing in the U.S. is declining. Why? Why, people?

I have admitted before that I am something of a germophobe, but in a healthy way. No, really. I don’t have vats of Purell in my house, or antibacterial soap, nor to I keep my children in a plastic bubble, though I’d really like to for many reasons other than their likelihood to come across germs.

But I refuse to bring them to those McDonald’s or ChuckECheese indoor playgrounds ever since I saw a news expose showing how they were never cleaned and contaminated with e-coli and all sorts of flesh eating bacteria. Excuse me, I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

“Fifteen to 20 seconds of friction and soap and water will remove so many germs from your hands and help with your wellbeing. That is a marvelous intervention that will work all over the world,” Judy Daly, director of the Microbiology Laboratories at the Primary Children’s Medical Center in told reporters.

Something as simple as hand washing could prevent the transfer of so many germs.

The article went on to say that only 77% of people washed their hands after using a public restroom, compared to 92% of people who SAID that they did. And men, they were by far the worst offenders. There was a huge discrepancy between the rates of hand washing between men and women. “[J]ust 66 percent of men [were] seen washing their hands in public bathrooms, compared with 88 percent of the women.”

Even 88% seems startling to me.

Your mission this week, should you chose to accept it, is to drill hand washing into your children. Make it a habit in the home so that it will become a habit out of the home as well. And you know what they say about children copying what you do and not what you say. Model the behavior for them.

I will thank you from the bottom of my germ phobic little heart. But even better, you can thank yourself when you are NOT cleaning up vomit from your child’s bedroom floor in the middle of the night. Yes, they will still get sick, but at least you can feel as though you were doing something proactive.

(cross posted at Handipoints)

24 Responses to “Hand Washing the Gateway to Better Health”

  1. Crisanne Says:

    My son’s preschool has a policy where children are required to wash their hands before they can enter their classroom.

  2. Nikki Says:

    Even scarier than indoor playyards: all you can eat buffets. I mean sneeze guards? Like they really work. What they really need is hand washing guards. Someone to make sure everyone washes their hands before they reach in and grab a roll or whatever. Yuck.

  3. Kristen Says:

    And it doesn’t even need to be anti-bac soap. Just plain old soap. We wash whenever we get home from going anywhere no matter what. And at our music class, they make us use handwipes before we enter.

  4. Tess Says:

    I’m a nurse, one of the queens of germaphobes!! I have even taught my kiddos (7 & 3) to use a paper towel to open the outside doors in public restrooms. if they don’t have paper towels, we use hand santizer as soon as we get to our carts or whatever!!

  5. Brandi Says:

    Being too germphobic can be as harmful as not cleaning enough. We have to build up resistance to bugs somehow otherwise we can get sick just going near someone or something new, potentially deathly sick. Reasonable exposure to germs is how we can help our bodies get stronger.

    That said, I agree with Chris, Purell every 15 min and anti-bacterial soap are not the best answer, handwashing with regular soap and warm water, at every reasonable and prudent opportunity, is.

    I think putting a hand washing station at the entrance to buffets would be a fantastic idea. Actually, at the entrance to all restaurants would be better, food courts too. Getting to the restrooms in some of those places is tantamount to a cross-country hike.

    Hey restaurant decision-maker types, are you listening? :-)

  6. Carrie Says:

    I definitely agree that washing hands is key to stopping the spread of germs. Using anti-bacterial handsoaps only cause bacteria to grow stronger. http://www.thewishingwellness.com/avoiding-common-cold

  7. Brigitte Says:

    Ew. Even at 88%, that’s about 1 out of every 8 people NOT washing.

  8. Christine Says:

    I just posted about an older lady at church, last week, not washing her hands. I see that ALL THE TIME!

    There’s a weird almost etiquette-type thing that goes on. If women are at the sinks, washing, when you come out of the stall, everyone feels obligated to stop and soap up. However, when I’ve got my drawers around my ankles and there’s no one at the sink, I hear women heading straight for the door … did I mention … ALL THE TIME!?!?!

    I teach my kids that they don’t just wash their hands for themselves, but for the health of other young children and the elderly, who can be wiped out by a typical cold. Granted, I ALSO teach them to turn off the sink with a paper towel and open the door with their elbows. The reality is that someone has wiped their butt and headed straight for the exit.


  9. Elaine Says:

    I read that article as well.
    Very sad that people don’t wash more.

    Here at my house we don’t have the anti-bacterial soaps, just reg. liquid soap, and have the sanitzer around for those time when we blow our noses or something similar. I carry some in my purse as well.

  10. t in hd Says:

    Can you imagine how much better everyone would be about hand-washing if germs were visible???

  11. Mslil65 Says:

    Although I wouldn’t consider myself a germophobe, I always try to wipe the handle and seat of a shopping cart before my toddler plops in. I know all too well what happens when there’s a nuclear poop in a diaper…and they sometimes leak. So, ew.
    I know my kids aren’t about to run and wash their hands whenever they sneeze, so I’ve taught the kids to sneeze into the crook of their arm (is that what it’s called…the inner elbow?) But handwashing after using the bathroom is so ingrained into their little heads, that my five year old is the first to remind someone (particularly strangers so as to humiliate me) that they didn’t wash their hands.

  12. ella Says:

    We wash hands whenever we get back home and I use hand sanitiser if we’re out. It’s so ingrained into my eldest son that he used to quiz other kids before lunch at preschool as to whether or not they’d washed their hands. I’d be mortified if I wasn’t so proud.

  13. Julia Says:

    Coming into flu season another way for everyone to reduce the spread of cold and flu germs is to cough/sneeze into the crook of your elbow and NOT use your hands..this will help prevent contaminating surfaces…. so wash your hands but also sneeze cough into your arm…


  14. Mrs. G. Says:

    Not washing hands is the bane of my existance. I park myself outside bathrooms waiting for my kids and a good 75% of the people just leave the stall and keep on walking. Yuck. Be Well.

  15. Lisa Says:

    It shows that many people, especially men are not at all concerned with their health. I don’t know about them, but every time I go to the restroom, I always make sure that I wash my hands.

  16. Geri Says:

    I also believe that hand washing can help us minimize sickness and diseases. Awareness is one of the things we need in our battle against sickness.

  17. amy Says:

    I am a crazed germaphobe myself. I cannot believe it when people do not wash their hands after using the restroom. Goodness, I make the kids wash their hands after coming home from any number of activities; I would never allow them to play in those playland joints, and I also detest going to the physician, certain that the germs there will kill us immediately. I was the neurotic mother who never let my child even sit on the chair waiting…Ugh. On the other hand, although the antibacterial soaps and purell cleansers are not good for our “public health”, they actually are excellent for individuals who need to guard against illness so Purell away and feel no guilt.

  18. Pia Says:

    This is so interesting.

    At my daughters preschool they have a poster in the diaper changing room “wash every third sick day away”. Thats right, by washing hands a preschool can eliminate 1/3 of teacher sick days. Impressive.

    A couple of years ago, in my old job, I had to take a food safety class (because we sold candy bars at the turist trap where I worked) and the % of handwashing people were much worse then the ones you quote. Right about 50% of all people wash their hands after using a public rest room.

    Something to keep in mind before letting your kid have that apple in the store - did the stocker wash his hands? Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera as the king said.

  19. Susan Says:

    I am amazed that it ever occurs to anyone *NOT* to wash their hands after using the restroom. Or that they forget. Heck, when my son was 7, he reported a McDonald’s employee to the manager because he’d seen him leave the restroom - after coming out of a stall - without washing his hands! Even at that age, he knew better.

    I’m going on a Disney cruise next year and was thrilled to hear that they actually hand out moistened towlettes to each person as they enter the dining rooms, every single time. Yay, Disney!

    Can’t have enough of that, IMO.

  20. fidget Says:

    I have been known to leave a public restroom without washing my hands, especially when the sink is so disgusting that I’m fairy certain I will catch something trying to clean up. Of course, I have hand sanitizer in my purse so I take care of that as I’m walking out but man the LOOKS people give you when they think you arent tidying up!! Then again those same people barely even stick their hands in the water!!

  21. Dani Says:

    Dirty sinks aren’t an excuse if there are paper towels there and you use this trick….

    -Take paper towels FIRST.
    -Shove them under your arm for safe-keeping.
    -Wash your hands.
    -Dry your hands with your safely-stashed towel (while the water is still running…. wasteful, I KNOW! But it’s for a good cause!).
    -Then use that one to turn off the sink and use it to open the door.

    Voila! You washed your hands and didn’t recontaminate before leaving the restroom.

    Also? Tear the end off the toilet paper and toss it into the toilet before taking what you need. Do you REALLY want toilet paper touching you that has been touched by other people and has been dangling there as a germ catcher?

    Hello. My name is Dani and I have issues with public restrooms.

  22. Sabrina Says:

    I always have hand sanitizer with us at all times and constantly am using it! Those McDonalds and Burger King play areas are so disgusting.

  23. Beverly Says:

    Yeah. Imagine I’m in a public bathroom with my 3 kids. In between the toilet stall and the sink, I’m barking at them: “Don’t touch your face!” They always seems to rub their eyes or put their fingers in their mouths before we get to the sink to wash our hands. And then, if they grab the door handle, sometimes I’ll have them wash their hands again.
    But I’ll say, too, that we don’t get sick very often. :-)

  24. Jen Says:

    Gee, how do I ever survive? How does my family survive? We get a few colds a year, but who doesn’t? And I have eaten at a LOT of buffets, and not gotten sick. Our bodies are EQUIPPED to fight off bad germs. I think it’s good to LET them do their JOBS from time to time. Yes, wash your hands when you go to the bathroom, before you eat, and when dealing with someone you know is sick. And use common sense when handling food. But all this stuff about not touching faucets and door handles and shopping carts, and worrying about every surface that could have germs on it? Let’s not get all OCD about germs, because I think it does more harm than good! Plus the germs are everywhere, no matter how careful you are. That’s why our bodies are made to handle them!

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