So this post may seem rather sexist, but I am going to direct the majority of this post towards men because according to a study noted by the NYTimes only 75% of men really wash their hands compared to 90% of women (source).
"It's not about education," said Dr. Osterholm. "It's about hygiene education. We have a problem at hospitals with doctors and nurses who don't wash their hands after seeing a patient. You can't get more educated than that."(source)
Men's issue with hand washing after number one
The idea to do this weeks Say What? comes from an issue very close to my home...quite literally. My husband actually. After noticing that he only washes his hands post bathroom sitting visit, I was really grossed out to say the least about his bathroom habits. After asking about it, he insisted that he didn't, "pee on myself so why should I have to wash my hands?" my initial retort was, "because that's disgusting!" But after some research I've concluded on a much more educated reason of why he should ALWAYS wash his hands.
"Your boxes-shorts region- from belly button to mid thigh-is crawling with germs known as coliform bacteria" (source), and it can transfer from your private parts skin to your hands in the short time it takes to go number one. Consequently if you don't wash your hands afterwards, that coliform bacteria- which can give you serious and possibly fatal infections if it enters into the blood stream- will be spread to everything you touch after going pee. So its not a matter of if you pee or don't pee on yourself, its an issue of transferring germs to others in spite of not peeing on yourself.(source)
Now I can see many of you men saying, "Me? Have germs on my privates? nah." Well, in truth even showering and washing that area won't get those germs out because its more porous. Since your hands are not as porous it is much easier to wash the germs off them with simple soap and water. In fact, probably the most cleanly man around still has plenty of germs in his unders' because they're extremely difficult to get off! (source) So just get over it, you have the germs on you. Right now. Yes, you! So even though you think peeing on yourself is the only reason you should wash your hands, think again. And women remember, if you continue to allow your man to think its alright to not wash their hands after going number one, you are directly saying it is OK for them to spread all kinds of nasties around your house and onto your children as well. Think about it.
Hand Washing in General
Now, in the stats listed above only 90% of women and 75% of men wash their hands, which leaves 25% of men and 10% of women who don't. So aside from the well known e.coli which you can pick up from fecal matter that makes you sick (source), there are also these diseases you can contract...
Hand-Foot-Mouth disease from coxsackie virus from fecal matter causes blisters in your mouth and on the bottoms of your feet,
Hepatitis A from food that was contaminated with fecal matter (yum!) attacks your liver and causes nausea and vomitting,
Shigellosis also from contaminated food but this causes awesome uncontrollable diarrhea (looking for a way to shed some extra pounds?)
and Giardiasis that causes gas, cramping, and more diarrhea, which you can get from hand to hand contact and untreated water also contaminated with fecal matter.
Don't those all sound lovely? Makes you really want to go out and shake peoples hands knowing that most likely one or two of them didn't wash their hands after their last bathroom trip. Or go out to eat aware that your waiter possibly didn't wash their hands either?
Another rather troubling issue that I didn't even think of, is people not washing their hands after changing diapers. I've actually watched many new mothers not wash their hands after changing diapers at church. So not only do they get their own babies germs on the baby themselves, but also spread it to whoever and whatever they come in contact with at the church.
Cleaning and Education
So how do you help keep your own home clean from bad germs and bacteria getting spread from those guests or family members (gasp) that don't wash their hands post bathroom visit? Key places to clean and disinfect are the toilet handle-which personally I rarely remember to clean when cleaning the toilet-and the sink handles as well as the bathroom door knob on both sides.(source)
To help bring those numbers up from only 75% of males and 90% of females we need to educate our children and those around us who are unaware of the diseases and issues that come from not hand washing when you go to the bathroom. Potty training is hard, but implementing hand washing each time you help your little one to the bathroom is not. If you get them in the habit early, just like buckling seat belts each time, they will retain that habit later. And women, even if it feels like a loosing battle with your man, show them the evidence that it really is important to wash after each bathroom trip.
Sorry for all the potty talk, better to be aware than to be ignorant though!