From the time we are young children, we are told over and over that we need to wash our hands: after we use the bathroom, before we eat, and when we come in from play. It is reiterated over and over that it is needed in order to stop the spread of germs. But is washing our hands really that important?
The short answer is, yes. Washing our hands is one of the most important things we can do.
By washing our hands, we are able to prevent:
- 31% of diarrhea-related illnesses in the general public;
- 58% of diarrhea-related illnesses in those who have weakened immune systems; and
- 16-21% of respiratory illnesses in the general public.
It is pretty incredible that something as simple as handwashing is able to accomplish so much. The simple act of handwashing is able to prevent these infections because:
- Germs can get into the body through the eyes, nose and mouth, which make us sick. This happens because people touch their faces, often without even realizing it;
- When people who prepare foods don’t wash their hands, germs can get into those foods and in some instances are able to multiply; and
- Germs are able to transfer to other surfaces such as doorknobs, handrails, and tables and then be transferred to another person’s hands.