Why is it Important to Wash Your Hands Frequently?

Why is it Important to Wash Your Hands Frequently?

Feces are the main source of salmonella, e.coli O157 and norovirus (winter vomiting bug). These unpleasant bacterium can cause horrific diarrhea or respiratory infections; like adenovirus or hand, foot and mouth disease. The germs that lead to these infections and diseases can be easily transferred after using the toilet but also in many more unusual ways.

oneHOWTO want to stress the importance and benefits of washing hands, to ensure you keep you and your family's health in tip top condition. So, if you have ever wondered why is it important to wash your hands frequently, now you will know.

What happens if you don't wash your hands

A single gram of human feces—which is about the weight of a paper clip—can contain one trillion germs1. It's a ridiculous number to comprehend, isn't it? This means we should be extra meticulous when we wash our hands on a daily basis. It is so easy to spread bacteria and diseases without knowing because there is almost never any detectable signs of germs. But do you actually know what happens if you don't wash your hands?

Germs from unwashed hands can easily get onto foods whilst people are cooking or preparing meals. The scary thing about germs is that they can multiply in certain foods and drinks, making our chances of getting sick much higher. Germs can also be spread from handles, rails and doors, from one person to another, in a matter of seconds.

People constantly touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without even being aware of it and these are fast tracks for germs to get into the body and make us ill.

Benefits of washing hands

Removing germs through handwashing aids in the prevention of diarrhea and respiratory infections. Likewise, you are less likely to contract skin infections when keeping your hands bacteria-free.

Here are a few statistics to prove why it is so important to wash your handsfrequently:

  • Reduces the number of diarrhea sufferers by 31% REF 3
  • Reduces diarrheal illness in those with a weakened immune system by 58% REF 5
  • Reduces respiratory illnesses, like the common cold by 16-21% REF 4

With statistics like this, it makes us wonder why we are not more conscious of things we touch on a daily basis and more importantly, how often we should wash our hands.

An important factor to consider is the more we wash our hands, the less likely we will need antibiotics to combat infections. This will help us reduce antibiotic resistance, something doctors are concerned about on a global scale.

How often should I wash my hands?

Ask yourself, how many times a day do you wash your hands? If you realise that number is low, it's probably time for you to make some changes. There is no fixed number for you to follow, it depends on your lifestyle, your health and how often you handle things with your hands.

Although most people would disagree with this claim, a lot of people don't actually know how to wash their hands properly. They assume a light rinse with water and rub of the hands shall suffice. Therefore, we have listed a few simple steps on how to wash your hands properly, so you can remember the next time you're at the sink.

  • Wet your hands with clean running water and then turn off your tap. The water can be either warm or cold, there is no necessity for it to be warm unless your hands are very dirty. Then apply soap. We suggest liquid soap as it will prevent the spread of germs further.
  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together. Remember to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. So many germs can be stored under your nails.
  • Scrub your hands for round 15-20 seconds. It may seem like a waste of time, but it's nothing really.
  • Then rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • And finally dry your hands using a clean, dry towel or air dry them.

When should I wash my hands?

This is where people often slip up. More people should be asking the question: when should I wash my hands? Well, here are a few scenarios to bear in mind:

  • Before, during, and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • After doing the toilet
  • After changing diapers or nappies
  • Before and after treating a sick child or patient
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After blowing your nose (and when coughing or sneezing)
  • After taking out the trash
  • After touching an animal

Washing hands with soap and water vs. hand sanitizer

Of course, liquid soap and water is not always readily available when you are in need of washing your hands. The good thing is you have an on-the-go option to save you in any messy situations.

But how does washing hands with soap and water compare to using hand sanitizer?

The former is more effective in reducing the number of germs on them, but an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is still functional. The important thing here though is that it should contain at least 60% alcohol. They do reduce the number of germs but cannot eradicate them all, so there is a risk that you may still have some harmful chemicals on your hands after use.

It's also important to remember that if your hands are particular dirty, say after changing your car's oil, hand sanitizer will not clean them efficiently. Read the instructions on the label of your hand sanitizer for a specified amount and then rub the product in well until dry.

If you want to make your own hand sanitizer with essential oils, check out our oneHOWTO tutorial.

This article is merely informative, oneHOWTO does not have the authority to prescribe any medical treatments or create a diagnosis. We invite you to visit your doctor if you have any type of condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles to Why is it Important to Wash Your Hands Frequently?, we recommend you visit our Family health category.

  1. Franks AH, Harmsen HJM, Raangs GC, Jansen GJ, Schut F, Welling GW. Variations of bacterial populations in human feces measured by fluorescent in situ hybridization with group-specific 16S rRNA-targeted oligonucleotide probes. Appl Environ Microbiol. 1998;64(9):3336-3345.
  2. Ejemot RI, Ehiri JE, Meremikwu MM, Critchley JA. Hand washing for preventing diarrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;1:CD004265.
  3. Rabie T and Curtis V. Handwashing and risk of respiratory i