What Happens When You Don't Wash Your Hands

It's no secret that cleaning your hands is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs and stay healthy. It's such an important habit that schools and workplaces often require hand-washing as part of their hygiene policies. But what happens when you don't wash your hands? Let's take a look at some of the consequences.

1) Risk of antibiotic resistance

The overuse of antibiotics is an alarming problem, but many people don't realize that not washing your hands after using the restroom is another way to contribute to antibiotic resistance. According to a recent study, it was found that not washing hands with soap after going to the bathroom is one of the biggest causes of antibiotic-resistant E. coli. If your germs are resistant to antibiotics, they're much harder to treat and could lead to infections that are more dangerous and difficult to control.

2) Risk of spreading viruses

If you touch your face, eyes, nose, or mouth after touching your phone, money, doorknobs, or other objects that are contaminated with germs without washing your hands first, you're putting yourself at risk for illness. It's well known that the flu virus quickly spreads when people share things like money and cell phones. Still, there's also some evidence that suggests that other common viruses like the norovirus (which causes stomach illness) can spread through contaminated objects as well.

3) Risk of catching a cold or the flu

The spread of germs happens very quickly, and it's easy to be exposed to harmful illness-causing viruses just by coming into contact with other people. By not washing your hands regularly, you're increasing your chances of being exposed to these viruses. A recent publication found that people who didn't wash their hands after being out in public had a 4.5 times risk of developing a cold during the winter months, and those who didn't use soap had three times as many colds as those who did!

4) Risk of diarrhea and vomiting

The lack of hand-washing after using the restroom is a leading cause of infectious diarrhea and vomiting. The Journal of Clinical Microbiology reports that as many as 63% of acute gastroenteritis cases are caused by "fecal-oral transmission," which means that they were most likely caused by people who didn't clean their hands after using the restroom.

5) Risk of food poisoning

According to FoodSafety.gov, food poisoning is one of the most widespread problems in the U.S. Still, around 80% of cases are caused by people who don't wash their hands after using the washroom or coming into contact with contaminated surfaces. Because many foods come into contact with hands at some point during preparation, this increases your risk of food poisoning by transferring harmful germs from your hands to the foods you're preparing.

6) Increases risk of Hepatitis A infection

Hepatitis A is a severe liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus and can lead to fever, fatigue, nausea, and jaundice. Vaccination is a suitable option to prevent Hepatitis A infection and good hygiene practices like regular hand-washing after using the restroom or contacting contaminated objects or surfaces.

7) Risk of eye, nose, and throat infections

Respiratory tract infections are among the most widespread illnesses in the U.S., but many are easily preventable by good hygiene habits like washing your hands regularly. People who don't wash their hands after touching surfaces contaminated with germs are at a much higher risk of getting sick because they increase the likelihood of exposure to respiratory infections.

8) Skin infection

The hands contain many sweat glands and cracks, which provide the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive, leading to an increased risk of developing a skin infection such as impetigo. Acne and boils (a type of skin abscess) can also be caused by not washing hands after touching contaminated objects or surfaces.

9) Develop sepsis

Sepsis is a life-threatening disease that can cause widespread inflammation, blood clotting, and organ damage. Although many different pathogens can cause sepsis, the most common ones are found in the gut or on unwashed hands after coming into contact with infected material.

8) Loss of working days

U.S. workers lose an average of 3 days per year because of illness, which is almost entirely avoidable through good hygiene practices like frequent hand-washing after using the restroom or touching surfaces that are contaminated with germs. If you have a desk job, washing your hands regularly can reduce your risk of colds and flu by up to 20%.

10) Financial loss

Studies in the U.S show that it costs employers $150 billion each year in direct and indirect costs such as declining productivity, medical expenses, and absence from work. Although this number may seem high, almost 90% of these losses are entirely avoidable because regular hand-washing practices can prevent many infections.

11) Kids missing school

The average child in the U.S. misses around 18 school days per year because of illness, but this is largely avoidable through good hygiene practices like washing hands after using the restroom or touching surfaces that are contaminated with germs. By teaching your kids to wash their hands frequently, you'll reduce their risk of missing school by up to 50%.


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The content on this page is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute professional medical advice. Patients should not use the information presented on this page for diagnosing a health-related issue or disease. Before taking any medication or supplements, patients should always consult a physician or qualified healthcare professional for medical advice or information about whether a drug is safe, appropriate or effective.