The Significance of Hand Washing


Teacher’s Diary

Teachers should at all times stress to their pupils and/or students the importance of washing of hands. Good hand washing protects against the spread of many ailments. As children, we would have learnt from school the importance of washing our hands always especially after using the toilet. However, as the years have passed by and we are now comfortably in adulthood, many people have done away with religiously practicing this need. Many people don’t bother to wash their hands after a visit to the toilet. Hand washing definitely is a habit that needs to be ingrained and re-iterated, constantly.

In one ‘Hand Washing Survey’ carried out by the American Society for Microbiology and the Soap and Detergent Association, it was found that only 66 per cent men and 88 per cent women actually wash their hands after using a public toilet. This is in America, who must have far more handwashing facilities in public toilets than in developing nations. If we were all taught in school how dangerous not washing our hands can be, how come that several adults are forgetting to do so? If we’ve forgotten then it’s high time we refresh our memories. Let’s find out why exactly we ought to perform this hand cleansing ritual every single time we visit the toilet.

It is important to note that people who don’t wash their hands after using the toilet are more susceptible to colds, respiratory ailments and other contagious infections. Skipping hand washing after visiting the toilet can lead to picking up germs which could result in an infectious disease like diarrhoea. The person is at risk of contracting an illness every time he or she touches mucosal areas of his body like the nose, mouth, eyes and the genitals with unwashed hands.

Human faeces could contain germs like salmonellosis etc. are usually passed from a person who hasn’t washed their hands after using the toilet, then transmits the germs to their while shaking hands, handling food items, touching communal objects and surfaces and handling food. By washing your hands properly with soap and running water, the germs from the toilet gets washed off. This protects yourself and the others you are coming in contact with.

Salient point to note is that unwashed hands and poor hygiene often result in food-borne illness outbreaks. If this happens in an establishment, it could be due to negligence on the part of both the employer and employees working in the work-place. Employers have a duty of care to provide and implement handwashing trainings and facilities as well as food hygiene measures and trainings. People directly or indirectly dealing with food or food packaging need to doubly make sure they wash their hands properly after using the toilet. Improperly washed or unwashed hands transfer germs from the toilet to the food items and then to the person eating the food.

Employees of supermarkets keep handling fruits and vegetables; these could be a major source of germs if they maintain poor hygiene. Managers of supermarkets need to ensure their staff maintains proper hygiene. Moreover, people working in the hotel industry like chefs, waiters, waitresses etc. can also be transmitters of food borne illnesses. People in the health care sector also need to make sure they wash their hands after using the toilet. The aim of workers in these areas should be to control the spread of infections rather than to initiate transferable infections.

Proper hand washing is the most important way to prevent the spread of infections. By not washing your hands after using the toilet, you are forming a channel to spread infections to others. It is solely up to every individual to determine not to create or promote any chain of infection. You should take personal responsibility to wash your hands after using the toilet. It suffices to say that, “in protecting yourself, you are protecting others!” The message should be spread to all and sundry.

Omoru Writes from the UK