One-third of Americans admit that they don't wash their hands after using the bathroom. Here's why you should.
- Public restrooms are covered in fecal bacteria that launches from the toilet when you flush.
- The CDC recommends you wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds to stay clean.
- While you should wash with soap, antibacterial soap may not be the best choice. It kills good bacteria that helps you fight infection.
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Following is a transcript of the video.
Narrator: Face it, restrooms are gross. And public bathrooms are especially gross. After all, they don't have lids on their toilet seats, so when you flush, it launches a spray of bacteria nearly 2 meters away, onto the stall walls, onto the door handle, the seat, everywhere. Now, most of these bacteria are harmless. But a few can lead to nasty infections. For example, salmonella and E. coli, which can stow away in stool and can trigger horrible diarrhea. So, beyond swearing off public restrooms for the rest of your life, how do you stay clean?
Well, the obvious answer is to wash your hands. Sounds easy enough, right? Well, the sad fact is that many people don't. One-third of Americans admit that they don't wash up after using the bathroom. And that's just the ones who admit it! And even of the ones who do wash, many don't wash the right way. The CDC recommends that you wash for 20 seconds. That's about as long as one ad on YouTube. You can manage it. But about 60% of Americans reportedly wash for only 15 seconds or less. And when you do wash, you should wash with soap. It's way more effective than using just plain old water.
In a 2011 study, three groups of volunteers were examined after touching door handles and hand railings in public spaces. The first group didn't wash at all, the second washed with plain water, and the third washed with soap and water. And the results were telling.
The researchers found fecal bacteria in 44% of the no-wash samples, 23% of the only-water samples, and a mere 8% of the soap samples. But, unfortunately, 70% of Americans reportedly skip the soap. Yikes. To make matters worse, soap is where things get complicated. Because, as it turns out, not all soap is created equal. While your run-of-the-mill soap can't hurt, antibacterial soap comes with a nasty side effect.
You see, your hands are normally covered with harmless, native bacteria, some of which can actually keep you healthy by fighting off harmful germs. But antibacterial soap can kill off those native species, leaving you more susceptible to a nasty infection. So, your best bet is to avoid the antibacterial kind whenever possible. Of course, that's easier said than done in a public restroom, where you don't have much control over the type of soap that's available. But no soap at all isn't a great option, either.
So, clearly, it's time to start a global movement. Hashtag #BYOS. Or, bring your own soap. Just kidding.
That being said, no matter what your soap situation might be, you're still better off using a public restroom than holding it in. Because while the occasional potty dance won't hurt you, building a habit of holding it in for long periods can stretch out the muscles you use to control your bladder. And over many, many years, this can lead to leaking or even infections and other issues. So it's probably worth it to brave that stadium restroom at halftime. Just, you know, wash your hands afterward. Please?
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