Most of us have heard this throughout our lives: “Don’t forget to wash your hands after using the bathroom.” However, some people don’t do it. They forget or assume that it doesn’t matter because they didn’t really get their hands dirty. But not washing your hands after using the toilet is not just a gross social taboo; it is also a huge problem that affects health.
Adopt the Hand Washing Habit
Washing your hands after using the bathroom / toilet can reduce disease (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015). Bacteria, viruses, and parasites can live in feces, and when you don’t wash your hands with soap and water after using the bathroom, you are spreading those germs to your loved ones, your community members, and back to yourself. This increases illness, absenteeism from work and school, and overall misery for everyone.
Throughout the world, only about 19% of people actually wash their hands after using the bathroom, which is a primary reason for health problems like diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems (Freeman et al., 2014). That means that a lot of people are spreading feces to everything they touch after using the toilet and some people end up with it in their mouths (think about the last time you picked your teeth with your finger, chewed on your nails, or ate without washing your hands first).
Adapt Your Handwashing to Your Unique Circumstances
Ideally, wash your hands with regular soap and clean water immediately after using the bathroom. If soap and water are not available immediately after, do it as soon as you can, and avoid touching things as much as possible until then. This includes not touching your own face, mouth, or food.
If you don’t have access to soap and water, try using an antimicrobial hand sanitizer. Most are made with alcohol or other chemicals that can kill germs. You need to ensure that you use enough of it to kill all the germs; otherwise, it can contribute to bacterial resistance.
Attach It to a Habit You Already Have
We all have bathroom habits when we finish using the toilet. Just add it on to your regular bathroom routine. Pull up your pants and wash your hands. In your own home, you may even want to put a note on the mirror or on the door to remind you that you should wash your hands before leaving the bathroom.
Remember: Wellness Habits Are the Foundation of a Life of Well-Being
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Show Me the Science – Why Wash Your Hands? Retrieved May 1, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html
Freeman, M. C., Stocks, M. E., Cumming, O., Jeandron, A., Higgins, J. P. T., Wolf, J., … Curtis, V. (2014). Systematic review: hygiene and health: systematic review of handwashing practices worldwide and update of health effects. Tropical Medicine & International Health, 19(8), 906–916. https://doi.org/10.1111/tmi.12339