Restroom hygiene is a hot topic thanks to diseases that are reaching epic proportions. While kids are taught to soap up for the duration of the Happy Birthday song (in some cases, kids are taught to run through the song twice while washing hands), adults are quick to wash their hands with little soap and water or give just the fingertips a wipe with antibacterial gel. New studies are showing what we have to do to protect ourselves from illnesses and were restroom hygiene comes into play.
1. Mobile phones carry germs. You probably know that mobile phones carry germs, but you should also know they’re quickly becoming one of the main culprits for transferring an onslaught of germs between restrooms and office spaces like desks, cubicles and labs. What’s happening is folks are whipping out that smart phone to tweet while they take care of business for a few minutes in the company restroom. They”forget” to wash their hands and return to their desk, use public office phones, open the community fridge in the breakroom, all with germs hopping from the smart phone in their hand to the various items they touch.
2. Hand washing as increased, but still doesn’t do us any good. It seems more and more people are washing their hands post-toilet. This is obviously a good thing, but it isn’t the only time we should wash our hands. After coughing and sneezing, it’s just as important to wash hands and people seldom practice this. About 77% of people wash their hands after using a public toilet (people seem less threatened on their own turf), but that doesn’t mean they’re using the right technique. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises using soap and warm water and washing hands (up to the forearms) for at least 20 seconds before rinsing.
3. Women are soaping up more often than men. Though hand washing is improving, the numbers are still fairly low for men. About 93% of women wash their hands whether they’re at home or in a public place, where only 77% of men wash their hands. There’s no study that can determine why men wash their hands less women after using the restroom, but it seems to be the same for men who change diapers. Bottom line – just because you read hand washing statistics are up doesn’t mean you’re safe.
4. You don’t need fancy soaps or products labeled antibacterial. In a germ-fearing society, companies will capitalize on the people who think a pricey soap with a niche buzzword will get them more clean than standard soap. The truth is, a plain ol’ bar of soap does the same cleansing that a ritzy bottle of antibacterial soap does. Numerous studies now prove that standard soaps combat germs and diseases just as effectively as antibacterial soap or any soap that claims to kill 99.9% of germs. The best way to prevent illness is to soap up regularly after using the restroom, coughing, sneezing and prior to eating.
5. Antibacterial soaps may contribute to superbugs. How does this happen? One of the active ingredients in antibacterial products is triclosan. Studies find that constant exposure to this ingredient results in building bacteria and creating a stronger strain that is more difficult to treat with medicine. Other studies say the exposure to triclosan by most of us is average and not enough to breed a superbug except in extreme cases such as E.coli.
6. Antibacterial soaps may lessen our immune systems. Your immune system is made to ward off troublesome bacteria. Another thing is, not all bacteria is bad. There’s the common misinformation floating around that we have to kill all bacteria in order to be”clean,” but that’s quite the contrary. Antibacterial soaps and gels can kill the good bacteria we need to fight the bad bacteria that lurks around waiting to infect. Instead of dousing your hands in antibacterial gel you keep at your desk, simply wash up for 20 seconds post-restroom break.
7. Floors in public restroom are typically dirtier than toilet seats. For whatever reason, there’s this myth that you shouldn’t sit on a public toilet seat. Yet when there’s no table available to change your child’s diaper, many parents are the first to plop their child on the floor and proceed to get down with them to change the diaper. This is a major mistake! Public restroom floors are crawling with germs that breed within the restroom and are brought in on the shoes of countless visitors. Sitting on a toilet seat will not harm you, but getting down on the floor is likely to expose you to countless germs.
8. The paper toilet cover will protect you. Paper toilet covers offer peace of mind over everything else. There are no conclusive studies that show that a paper toilet cover adequately protects you from more germs than just sitting on the toilet sans protection. While it is very rare for any type STD to survive without a human host for several hours, a study at Baylor University showed that hepatitis C could survive and infect through five layers of tissue. While this is a very rare case and there’s no proof that upon contact hepatitis C would indeed infect the person sitting on the toilet, understand that the flimsy paper toilet seat cover is hardly protection against germs.
9. The most germs in a bathroom often lurk on the door handle. This has made push doors popular in newer commercial establishments. Even if you soap up for the suggested 20 seconds, you’re bound to contract germs the minute you reach for the door handle and let yourself out of the restroom. It’s for this reason that in the wake of H1N1, many doctors’ offices and public clinics have installed no-water antibacterial stations or sinks outside of restrooms, prompting patients to wash up after they’re out of the woods.
10. Touching the dryer button spreads germs. Leftover germs can lurk on the dryer button, as well as the filthy hands of kids who find it comical to continuously push the dryer button as they wait for their parents and siblings to use the restroom. It’s best to reach for a paper towel to dry hands off or use a no-touch system that senses when hands are put beneath or in front of the hand dryer.
While some restroom hygiene myths are just that, there are other common scenarios that will spread germs. The best thing you can do to protect yourself and your children from getting sick is to regularly wash your hands with soap and warm water. Practicing this before you eat, after using the restroom and post a cough or sneeze will keep you healthy and allow you to retain the healthy bacteria that will aide in fighting infections.