5 Things That Happen To Your Body When You Don't Wash Your Hands Enough

If there is anything we all remember learning from our childhoods, it's one simple mantra: Wash your hands. Why is this so important? Because tons of things happen to your body when you don't wash your hands enough. Washing your hands has an impact not only on your health, but also on the health of everyone around you — and seriously, it only takes a minute. Time to lather up, everyone.

We've all known someone (or hey, maybe we are that someone) who swears they don't worry about washing their hands because they are in great health and never get sick. But while some people get sick less often than others, it's important to remember that your hands go all over the place, including areas that other people touch. And germs that may not harm us can certainly harm others, especially those who have weaker immune systems or chronic health issues.

But even beyond how our germs can impact others, let's think about they can affect our own bodies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advocates that washing our hands is one of the most effective ways to keep from getting sick. The CDC suggests washing your hands with soap and fresh, running water for at least 20 seconds before reaching for a towel to dry off.

Unfortunately, many people do not wash their hands regularly, including before preparing food or after using the restroom. People skip their hands especially after using the restroom, in fact. A 2013 study from the Journal of Environmental Health found that 10 percent of subjects skipped washing their hands entirely, 33 percent didn't use soap, and almost none of the participants washed their hands for long enough. Gross, right?

Given the fact that it appears many people do not wash their hands regularly, it is so important to review all the things that can happen to your body when you don't wash your hands. I've broken down some of the major risks below:

1. You Can Give Yourself A Cold


Common colds are generally spread through touch. For example, if you have a cold and you rub your eyes, mouth, or nose, and then touch a doorknob, some food, or a subway railing without washing your hands, you may be spreading your infectious germs to everyone else who touches or consumes what you just touched. In fact, according to WebMD, about 80 percent of infectious diseases are spread by touch.

Now, even if you are in great shape health-wise, it's important to remember that not everyone around you may be. That's why you need to wash your hands frequently — because even if the person on the subway next to you doesn't look super sick, they might be on the brink of a nasty infection.

2. You Can Give Yourself Food Poisoning


Food poisoning can come from a number of different places, including food that has gone bad, undercooked meat, and, yes, food prepared with dirty hands. 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 whether you're cooking for yourself or for others, please wash your hands! Your guests (and your own stomach) will thank you.

3. You May Experience Frequent Diarrhea


Just like with food poisoning, there are, of course, many causes of diarrhea. That said, the CDC estimates that about 30 percent of diarrhea-related illnesses could be prevented by frequently washing your hands. Even if diarrhea only hits you for an afternoon, we all know how painful and uncomfortable it is — it's got to be easier to just wash your hands, right?

4. You Put Yourself At Risk For Hepatitis A


Hepatitis A is a super serious sickness. Common symptoms include dark urine, nausea, yellowing skin, and vomiting. What can we do to prevent it from spreading? Wash our hands. Seriously: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Hepatitis A can be transmitted if someone who has the virus does not wash their hands after bathroom use and then prepares food. And it's important to remember that people don't always know they're sick when they're sick. So this transmission could be entirely accidental, which is why it is so important to make washing your hands a habit and a priority, not an occasional thing!

5. Your Nails Become A Bed Of Germs


Whether you keep your nails long or short, you can still get a ton of germs stuck under them if you don't wash your hands regularly. Sure, your nails may look gorgeous, but if you aren't cleaning your hands, you aren't cleaning your nails. And don't think that just because germs are hiding under your nails, you are less likely to get sick than if they were on your hands.

In fact, harmful germs that may cause vomiting or diarrhea are frequently found under fingernails. Where do these germs tend to come from? Handling raw meat and handling fecal matter, such as from your pet or when you are changing a diaper. Gross, right? So please, wash your hands thoroughly!

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