11 Gross Things That Can Happen When You Don't Wash Your Hands Enough
Be honest — how often do you actually wash your hands? Unless you are diligent AF, I'm sure a few times slip by here and there after sneezing, or after a quick pee, when you don't dash to the sink. It's definitely not the end of the world, but some pretty gross things can happen when you don't wash your hands.
Now I'm not trying to trigger any OCD nightmares, but let's talk about germs for a second. As we know, they are everywhere, and have the annoying ability to cause all sorts of illnesses and infections. Thankfully, we have immune systems that generally take care of the majority of issues. However a few germs can slip by every now and then, especially during the cold and flu seasons.
When that's the case, it can be pretty easy to get sick. According to the Mayo Clinic, "As you touch people, surfaces, and objects throughout the day, you accumulate germs on your hands. In turn, you can infect yourself with these germs by touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Although it's impossible to keep your hands germ-free, washing your hands frequently can help limit the transfer of bacteria, viruses and other microbes."
If you're feeling thoroughly grossed out, then check out the way to properly wash your hands. It's your best bet in keeping illnesses at bay. Still feeling unfazed? Here are more gross things than can happen when you don't wash your hands.
1. You Might Catch More Colds
If you've made it this far into adulthood, then you know the importance of washing your hands when you have a cold. That's because about 80 percent of infectious disease is spread by touch, according to an article on WebMD.com. All it takes is the simple act of grabbing a germ-ridden door knob, and then touching your nose to get instantly infected. Definite motivation to whip out the soap.
2. Fecal Matter Might End Up In Your Food
It's a gross truth, but fecal matter is lurking in more places than you might think — including your hands. So it's no surprise that these germs can get into food and make you sick, according to the CDC. It's shocking (and revolting), but it doesn't have to be this way. Simply scrub up after you go to the bathroom, after changing a diaper, after using public transportation, and always before touching or preparing food.
3. You Could Get Or Spread Food Poisoning
There are many ways to come down with a case of food poisoning, including eating under cooked meats, or food that has gone bad. But you can also get pretty darn sick by preparing food with dirty hands (see previous post about fecal matter). According to the CDC, "A large percentage of foodborne disease outbreaks are spread by contaminated hands. Appropriate hand washing practices can reduce the risk of foodborne illness and other infections." So do yourself and everyone else a favor by washing up before you cook.
4. You're Infecting Everyone You Touch
Sure, it's more polite to sneeze into your hand than it is to let the it fly freely. And yet, I'm sure you then march up to a coworker to shake hands, or pass someone a germ-ridden pen. As Sharon Perkins noted on LIVESTRONG, "Common respiratory illnesses that can be spread by poor hand washing include rhinoviruses such as the common cold and influenza." I know it wasn't intentional, but now everyone has your cold.
5. Pink Eye Could Rear Its Ugly Head
Pink eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is that well-known eye infection you probably caught back in the day in grade school. That's because it's highly contagious and spreads like wildfire amongst kids. But adults can catch it, too. According to the American Association of Ophthalmology, all it takes is a little hand-to-eye contact when you have an infected person's secretions on your hand, and then the typical red eyes, itchiness, and pus will begin. (Gross, I know.)
6. Your Snacks Will Get Contaminated
Think of all the times you've plunged a dirty hand into a bag of chips, box of crackers, or bowl of popcorn. Again and again you plunge, coating every chip with bacteria and viruses. Pretty nasty, right? Think of it like the bowl of nuts at the bar. The Evening Standard recently did an investigation into bar foods, and found that some shared snacks had traces of bacteria. One bowl of crackers had 690 enterobacteria and 290 coliforms per gram. Just something to keep in mind, especially if you're snacking whilst sick.
7. You Might Pick Up Hepatitis A
Not washing your hands can also cause Hepatitis A, which shows itself with yellowing of the skin, dark urine, nausea, and vomiting. According to Norene Anderson, a registered nurse, on Livestrong.com, "Hepatitis A transmission occurs when someone contaminated with the virus does not thoroughly wash his or her hands after bathroom use and handles food consumed by others." Scary stuff.
8. Diarrhea May Become A Frequent Visitor
Hand-washing can prevent about 30 percent of diarrhea-related sicknesses, according to the CDC. But if you can't be bothered, then you may have to prepare to be stricken with some rather... unpleasant digestive issues. One of these might be shigellosis, a bacterial infection with symptoms that include watery diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and fever, said Anderson. No fun at all.
9. You Might Catch The Epstein Barr Virus
OK, so I talked about poop in your food. Now what about urine, or saliva? These are the carriers of scary diseases like typhoid, cytomegalovirus, and Epstein-Barr virus, which are spread by contaminated hands. Epstein-Barr is the virus that causes mononucleosis, AKA the "kissing disease," according to WebMD. It can cause fever, weakness, swollen neck glands, and fatigue that can last for weeks. Best to try to avoid all that.
10. It Could Contribute To Antibiotic Resistance
If you can't be bothered to wash your hands, think of how your laziness could be contributing to an antibiotic resistant superbug. According to the CDC, "Reducing the number of infections by washing hands frequently helps prevent the overuse of antibiotics — the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world. Handwashing can also prevent people from getting sick with germs that are already resistant to antibiotics and that can be difficult to treat." Help out everyone on the planet, and wash your dang hands.
11. Dirt Will Accumulate Under Your Nails
Long nails can be pretty, except for maybe when they are encrusted with oils, dirt, and makeup residue. Yup, that's what makes up the brown stuff jammed up under your nails, according to Shannon Farrell on for Women's Health. Oh, and germs. Lots and lots of germs.
Because, as I'm sure you see now, germs truly are lurking around every corner. And they can obviously cause and spread all sorts of issues — probably more than you thought. (Hepatitis A, anyone?) So get in the habit of scrubbing your mitts, and enjoy a more germ-free life.
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