It’s a serious question that needs answering [Photo: Pexels]
We go to the loo then we wash our hands. Of course we do; it’s a no brainer, right?
Except, apparently, it isn’t.
Study after study show that in fact a huge percentage of people do not wash their hands after going to the toilet. A 2015 survey, the largest ever analysis of handwashing with 100,000 respondents, showed a stonking 62 per cent of men and 40 per cent of women admitted that they don’t wash their hands following a trip to the bathroom.
Similarly, a 2013 study in the Journal of Environmental Health that reviewed 3,749 people’s toilet hygiene habits, found that 10 per cent didn’t wash their hands at all, 33 per cent didn’t bother with soap, and almost everyone else didn’t spend long enough lathering to be effective.
So, does it really matter if we don’t wash our hands after we wee?
Well, yes. Government health guidelines are crystal clear: washing our hands properly is one of the single most important things we can do to help prevent the spread of many illnesses.
Germs are easily spread by touch and can be picked up unknowingly from other people, or contaminated objects or surfaces (of which there are a lot in the average bathroom), and then passed on to others too.
The best way to stop this happening is to wash our hands, therefore preventing further transmission.
Dr Bob Adak, head of the gastrointestinal department at Public Health England, says: “No-one would wilfully want to touch or eat faeces but that is what millions of us are doing every day by not washing our hands”.
America’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention adds: “A single gram of human faeces - which is about the weight of a paper clip - can contain one trillion germs”.
We use our hands non-stop - and spread germs with them without realising [Photo: Pexels]
And what happens if we don’t wash our hands after we wee?
Well, there’s MRSA, flu, salmonella, impetigo and campylobacter (the most common cause of gastro-enteritis, to me and you) for starters. Need we go on?
And it’s not just ourselves we need to think of. We’ve already touched on the fact that these germs spread extremely easily. What happens if your bypassing the sink in your rush to be out the bathroom means you unwittingly pass on germs to the elderly or newborn?
That’s what this Memphis dad believes happened to his baby, who ended up critically ill earlier this year after contracting a series of sicknesses including the extremely contagious respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) at the hands, quite literally, of a well-meaning visitor who hadn’t washed theirs properly.
How to wash your hands properly
Just in case you need some help, here’s the NHS’s handy step-by-step guide to hand washing:
1. Wet hands with water
2. Apply enough soap to cover all surfaces of hand
3. Rub hands palm to palm
4. Right palm over back of left hand with interlaced fingers and vice versa
5. Palm to palm with fingers interlaced
6. Back of fingers to opposing palms with fingers interlocked
7. Rotational rubbing of left thumb clasped in right palm and vice versa
8. Rotational rubbing, backwards and forwards with clasped fingers of right hand in left palm and vice versa
9. Rinse hands with water
10. Dry hands thoroughly with a single use towel
11. Use towel to turn off tap
12. Your hands are now clean
If you have trouble remembering all that, experts have determined that washing with hot water and soap for the time it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice through should suffice.
What about hand sanitisers? Will they do instead?
If for some reason you can’t wash your hands properly - maybe there’s no soap - then hand sanitiser is the next best thing. It’s not as good as a thorough hand wash, and won’t kill all germs, but better than nothing. You need to make sure you use one that’s at least 60 per cent alcohol to be effective.
So back to the original question: do we need to wash our hands after we wee? The short, and long, answers are yes of course we do. But, as a developed country with high sanitation, health education and easy access to clean, running water, perhaps the question should be why on earth wouldn’t we?