In public restrooms, there are usually signs reminding employees to wash their hands before returning to work. I’ve often wondered why that was necessary. Doesn’t everyone, employee or not, wash their hands after using the bathroom? Was that not one of the first things we learned post-potty training? Isn’t it second nature to flush, zip and reach for the faucet? Apparently not.
In a recent phone survey, 92 percent of Americans claimed that they washed their hands after using the bathroom. However, when researchers invaded restrooms in Chicago, New York, Atlanta and San Francisco, they found that only 77 percent actually did. And, the worst offenders were men. While 88 percent of women practiced proper hand-hygiene, a mere 66 percent of men did. That means that approximately one-third of the men walking around out there haven’t washed their hands since . . . since who knows when. That’s just gross, not to mention unhealthy. Every year, unclean hands contribute to the spread of infectious diseases. Colds, flu and foodborne illnesses pass from touch to touch. Improperly disinfected hands cause many of the 1.4 million hospital-acquired infections. Dirty hands plague the world. The only way to stop that is to wash them . . . properly.
Washing your hands doesn’t involve waving them half-heartedly under a puny trickle. You should wet your hands with warm running water, apply soap and then scrub. Work up a lather that covers every inch of your hands. Continue rubbing your hands together for at least 20 seconds. Then, rinse thoroughly. Finish the process with a paper towel or air dryer, using the paper towel (if possible) to turn off the faucet. Once you’ve done that, your hands will be clean. For the time being. Using the bathroom isn’t the only instance that calls for hand washing. Preparing food, treating cuts, playing with animals, coughing, sneezing and handling garbage all require hand washing afterwards, and often before. Of course at those times, you may not always have a faucet and bar of soap nearby. If that’s the case, use an alcohol-based product to sanitize. The important thing is that you keep your hands clean, for your sake and ours.
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