What Are the Benefits of Hand Washing?

Woman washes with running water and soap hands
A woman is washing her hands with soap. (Image: nehopelon/iStock/Getty Images)

Children often hear parents or teachers reminding them to wash their hands throughout the day, but adults could use some reminding as well. A 2003-04 Minnesota Department of Health study observed hand washing behavior in public restrooms at three events. Observations revealed that 64 to 75 percent of females washed their hands after using the bathroom. Only 30 to 51 percent of males washed their hands. Keeping in mind some of the major health benefits of hand washing may help you commit to the practice.

Reduces Risk in Medical Settings

Hand washing is a simple yet vital behavior in hospitals and other medical facilities. Its importance was first realized in a Vienna hospital in the 19th century. Maternity patients were dying at a high rate. Dr. Ignaz Semmelweis started ordering his staff members to wash their hands before treating the patients, drastically lowering the death rate as a result. The transfer of bacteria from cadavers to the patients from the staff's hands was the culprit in the deaths. Ensuring that today's medical professionals make hand washing a priority is essential.

Lowers Risk of Diarrhea and Intestinal Problems

Washing hands lowers the risk of having diarrhea and developing intestinal infections, an important benefit particularly for children. Diarrheal disease is one of the leading causes of death in children under 5 throughout the world. Contact with fecal matter causes such illnesses and can be prevented by washing hands with soap. It may also prevent complications connected to intestinal worms.

Prevents Eye Infections

The spread of bacterial eye infections, such as trachoma, can be reduced through regular hand washing. It can also lower the likelihood of contracting conjunctivitis, or pink eye. This irritating eye condition causes eye pain, itching, light sensitivity and discharge. It is spread a number of ways, with the most common being through viruses. Always wash your hands before putting in contacts, as being a contacts wearer increases your risk of having pink eye.

Lowers Respiratory Infection Risk

You can lower your chances of developing an acute respiratory infection by making hand washing a priority. The pathogens that cause respiratory complications are commonly found on surfaces and hands. Some of the pathogens associated with diarrhea also cause respiratory problems. Hand washing significantly reduces your chances of getting sick.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES
Comments
PARTNER & LICENSEE OF THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION

Copyright © 2018 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy. The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.