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  #1  
Old 06-30-2010, 05:28 PM
gallan gallan is offline
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Why do we wash our hands after going to the bathroom?

Seriously, why is hand-washing after using the bathroom such a big deal? I'm not in the habit of getting urine or poop on my hands (and urine is sterile, isn't it?). My crotch isn't any less sanitary than my arm pits or my feet, yet nobody demands that we wash our hands after applying deodorant or removing our socks at the end of the day. The surfaces within the bathroom are used far less than the hand rail of the staircase or the button on the copy machine or even the front door of the office, yet we aren't required to wash our hands after touching any of those surfaces.

I distinctly remember an experiment that we did in my high school science class where we walked around the school and took samples of different surfaces to see which ones had the most germs. In every case, samples taken from the bathroom always had fewer germs than samples taken elsewhere. I also remember an episode of Mythbuster's where they were trying to figure out how much fecal matter accumulates on a toothbrush in the bathroom. As a control, they placed a second toothbrush in a jar, far away from any bathrooms. At the end of the experiment, the toothbrush from the jar had just as much fecal matter as the toothbrush from the bathroom (a minuscule amount), showing that fecal matter isn't somehow accumulating on bathroom surfaces.

Does anyone know the answer? Perhaps references to studies that show that people who wash their hands are healthier than those who don't?
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  #2  
Old 06-30-2010, 05:36 PM
KneadToKnow KneadToKnow is offline
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The Master speaks
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  #3  
Old 06-30-2010, 05:55 PM
dolphinboy dolphinboy is offline
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I asked my doctor this very question and he said because it forces us to wash our hands at least 3-4 times a day. We are exposed to germs all the time... and our hands tend to touch our faces a lot. So by washing our hands frequently we are reducing the chances of transmitting disease to ourselves. That reason made sense to me so I got into the habit of doing it. YMMV

Last edited by dolphinboy; 06-30-2010 at 05:56 PM..
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Old 06-30-2010, 07:58 PM
DrFidelius DrFidelius is offline
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If you are a chemist, you wash your hands before you go.
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  #5  
Old 06-30-2010, 08:05 PM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is online now
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Originally Posted by dolphinboy View Post
I asked my doctor this very question and he said because it forces us to wash our hands at least 3-4 times a day. We are exposed to germs all the time... and our hands tend to touch our faces a lot. So by washing our hands frequently we are reducing the chances of transmitting disease to ourselves. That reason made sense to me so I got into the habit of doing it. YMMV
Of course, by washing your hands first, you're spreading diseases to your willy (if you're a boy) instead of keeping them contained to your hands and face.
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Old 06-30-2010, 08:27 PM
Ludovic Ludovic is offline
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Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
If you are a chemist, you wash your hands before you go.
Or if you cook with habaneros. Unless you've already gotten past that barrier already and certain parts are almost as numb to capsaicin as your taste buds

Not that I'm referring to anyone there....
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Old 06-30-2010, 09:26 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Originally Posted by Sage Rat View Post
Of course, by washing your hands first, you're spreading diseases to your willy (if you're a boy) instead of keeping them contained to your hands and face.
Umm, no, just the opposite. Washing your hands before you urinate makes for clean hands on your penis.

The Op is sort of right. Other than your Momma teaching you that your "private parts" are "dirty", your hands do not get dirty from touching your penis. They do get dirty from wiping your ass, unless you are wearing gloves or are perfect.

But washing your hands is a Good Idea. As dolphinboy sez, you wash your hands in the bathroom when you urinate as you are already there, and it's a convenient time. I usually wash before I urinate, and after I defecate.
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Old 06-30-2010, 09:28 PM
CalMeacham CalMeacham is offline
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Why do we wash our hands after going to the bathroom?

What I'd like to know is why some people don't wash after going to the bathroom.
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  #9  
Old 06-30-2010, 09:35 PM
AWB AWB is offline
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Originally Posted by Ludovic View Post
Or if you cook with habaneros. Unless you've already gotten past that barrier already and certain parts are almost as numb to capsaicin as your taste buds

Not that I'm referring to anyone there....
I did that once: diced a habanero pepper then went #1. My willie stung for about 2 days, even after intense showering.
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Old 06-30-2010, 10:29 PM
Guinastasia Guinastasia is online now
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Originally Posted by AWB View Post
I did that once: diced a habanero pepper then went #1. My willie stung for about 2 days, even after intense showering.
Should have used milk. Just soap and water won't do anything for capsicum.
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  #11  
Old 06-30-2010, 10:39 PM
Sage Rat Sage Rat is online now
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Umm, no, just the opposite.
It was a typo. I meant to say "after".
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  #12  
Old 06-30-2010, 10:54 PM
Dallas Jones Dallas Jones is offline
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Why do we wash our hands after going to the bathroom?

The actual, practical, reason to encourage washing hands after going to the bathroom is that going to the bathroom is something that everyone does a couple times per day. If you want to prevent the spread of any disease the best place to start is with regular hand washing.

So if everyone washes their hands after going to the bathroom, then at least people are washing a couple times per day.

It doesn't really matter why.
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  #13  
Old 06-30-2010, 11:58 PM
panache45 panache45 is offline
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The next time you touch anything in a public restroom (toilet seat, toilet flush handle, urinal flush handle, sink hardware, towel hardware, door handle, stall handle, etc.) think of 2 facts:

1. These things are probably never cleaned.
2. You have no idea what was on the hands of people who had previously used it.

Does that answer your question?
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  #14  
Old 06-30-2010, 11:59 PM
wwworldclique wwworldclique is offline
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Originally Posted by gallan View Post
I'm not in the habit of getting urine or poop on my hands (and urine is sterile, isn't it?).
But a lot of ppl ARE in the habit of doing that, and a lot more are in the habit of not making sure that whatever viruses they have are contained to themselves. So we need to make it "good practice" so that those people are *reminded* to do that.
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  #15  
Old 07-01-2010, 12:21 AM
SmithCommaJohn SmithCommaJohn is offline
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because gross
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  #16  
Old 07-01-2010, 02:22 AM
dnooman dnooman is offline
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Correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't a general hand washing protocol usefull for keeping the spread of E. Coli., fecal coliform, and Giardia at bay?

Surely it can't be a bad practice, so why not?

I'm one of those people that thinks that limited exposure to certain bacteria and other such things is a possibly good thing, given the immune system learns from and can defend against future attacks. That said, poo in my food from a person that doesn't believe in hand washing, could very well make me quite sick.

I'd be interested to see what happens with other countries where they use water and their hands to wash off feces, is there a measured disease correlation?

If I were to answer the OP in short, I'd say that fecal matter can make people sick, if not kill them. That seems reason enough to me for a tradition of hand washing.

On a side note... I've always found it curious when a woman gets disgusted when a guy pees and doesn't wash his hands, yet the same woman will take a penis into her mouth with no washing whatsoever. Not a complaint by any means, just a cultural oddity.
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  #17  
Old 07-01-2010, 03:53 AM
clairobscur clairobscur is offline
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Originally Posted by dnooman View Post
I'd be interested to see what happens with other countries where they use water and their hands to wash off feces, is there a measured disease correlation?
.
In those countries, it's always done with the left hand, and it's the reason why they only use their right hand to eat or shake hands. The left hand is the dirty one used for vile stuff, and the right the good hand used socially.

Last edited by clairobscur; 07-01-2010 at 03:54 AM..
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  #18  
Old 07-01-2010, 06:22 AM
Chief Pedant Chief Pedant is offline
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Here's the deal:

You can't avoid germs, Cecil's post to the contrary. He was doing good in his post until he forgot to mention that there isn't any proof whatsoever that washing of hands actually keeps the average person any healthier. There are, on the other hand, a number of studies suggesting a dirtier environment is healthier for kids. Raise a kid in a totally sterile environment and you've got yourself one feeble immune system, ready to croak from the first germ that gets through.

Now the hooker is that there are some pathogenic germs out there, the transmission of which will be diminished by good hygiene. Among the elements of good hygiene is hand-washing, but most people are lousy at it, and frankly it doesn't do much good by itself. Take a poopie, get up, fix your trou and your belt and then wash your hands...you're a walking fomite for reinfecting yourself after you wash your hands. So is the door handle and... etc etc

I don't want to touch you after you've wiped your backside or played with your twig and berries (whether for pleasure or for p) but honestly, it's mostly a learned grossness and not a clinical thing when you get right down to it. I don't like shaking your hand after you've picked your nose and before you've rolled it up, either. But I've seen monkeys share boogers as treats (I think; I may have imagined that).

Germs, and even pretty pathogenic ones, are everywhere. In some meningitis outbreaks, perhaps a third or half of a population has meningococcus in their nasal cavity, and yet only a tiny fraction crump from it. At an individual level, your immune system is much more important than your germ exposure.

In general, decent hygiene and sewer systems have kept the developed world healthier than the filthier world, with fewer outbreaks, much less parasitic load, and so on. But most of that is large-scale stuff like public sanitation and clean drinking water and proper food handling--and less about washing coliforms post-elimination.

Still, if you don't wash your hands often, don't touch me, OK?
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  #19  
Old 07-01-2010, 08:37 AM
Anaamika Anaamika is offline
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I refuse to do things for no reason. However, the reasoning of "You're in there, so wash your hands anyway, just because" makes perfect sense to me - this way I'm washing my hands several times a day.
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  #20  
Old 07-01-2010, 10:51 AM
gallan gallan is offline
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I fully agree that hand-washing is an integral part of avoiding the spread of germs, and for the record, I always wash my hands after I use the bathroom. I've just always wondered why. I've never bought into the idea that my hands are somehow dirtier after I've used the bathroom, or that the bathroom is a less sanitary place than any other common area. You can't convince me that the buttons on the elevator at work, which are literally touched by hundreds of people a day, are more sanitary than the surfaces of the bathroom.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dolphinboy View Post
I asked my doctor this very question and he said because it forces us to wash our hands at least 3-4 times a day. We are exposed to germs all the time... and our hands tend to touch our faces a lot. So by washing our hands frequently we are reducing the chances of transmitting disease to ourselves. That reason made sense to me so I got into the habit of doing it. YMMV
This makes perfect sense to me! I hadn't really considered it a convenience thing. Thanks!
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  #21  
Old 07-01-2010, 11:45 AM
Leaffan Leaffan is online now
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Because Mum told me to.
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  #22  
Old 07-01-2010, 12:20 PM
Chief Pedant Chief Pedant is offline
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Originally Posted by gallan View Post
This makes perfect sense to me! I hadn't really considered it a convenience thing. Thanks!
Sadly, the good doctor's explanation was completely ass-backward--literally.

You see, any pathogens you are pooping out already made it past the "oral" part of the fecal-oral cycle. It's the OTHER guy's feces that might contain pathogens for you; if your own feces contains pathogens you are already infected and it's too late.

Feel entirely free, medically-speaking, to munch your own fe...never mind; the thought is disgusting. Reminds me why I don't like babies. In any case it is absolutely impossible to avoid the bacteria you carry around on and in your own body.

On edit: perhaps I read it too fast. If the good doctor is saying frequent hand washing avoids contamination from others...well; kinda. But it would have to be pretty darn OCD-level frequency. It's really not very practical, although certainly a given public toilet, frequently-used enough to have viable bacteria everywhere, is a reasonable motivation to wash in case any pathogens were left by its filthy previous users.

Last edited by Chief Pedant; 07-01-2010 at 12:23 PM..
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  #23  
Old 07-01-2010, 12:24 PM
Darth Panda Darth Panda is offline
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Originally Posted by Chief Pedant View Post

Now the hooker is that there are some pathogenic germs out there, the transmission of which will be diminished by good hygiene.
Hooker?
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  #24  
Old 07-01-2010, 01:14 PM
Chessic Sense Chessic Sense is offline
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Originally Posted by Chief Pedant View Post
You see, any pathogens you are pooping out already made it past the "oral" part of the fecal-oral cycle. It's the OTHER guy's feces that might contain pathogens for you; if your own feces contains pathogens you are already infected and it's too late.
I feel I need to post this semi-NSFW video.
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  #25  
Old 07-03-2010, 11:22 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Originally Posted by gallan View Post
Seriously, why is hand-washing after using the bathroom such a big deal? I'm not in the habit of getting urine or poop on my hands ... don't?
If you use toilet paper to clean your backside after defecation then you definitely have poop on your hand, even if you can't see or smell it.
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  #26  
Old 07-04-2010, 01:01 AM
elelle elelle is offline
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I'll summon up the ol' ghost of Ignatz Semmelweis, who really didn't get enough credit in his own lifetime with hand-washing hygiene, and had to fend for his very rational observance of bodily contamination against the mores of the day. Really, read the whole Wiki article, it's worth it.
Quote:
(from above source):He concluded that he and the medical students carried "cadaverous particles" on their hands[Note 6] from the autopsy room to the patients they examined in the First Obstetrical Clinic. This explained why the student midwives in the Second Clinic, who were not engaged in autopsies and had no contact with corpses, saw a much lower mortality rate.
The germ theory of disease had not yet been developed at the time. Thus, Semmelweis concluded that some unknown "cadaverous material" caused childbed fever. He instituted a policy of using a solution of chlorinated lime (modern calcium hypochlorite, the compound used in today's common household chlorine bleach solution) for washing hands between autopsy work and the examination of patients. He did this because he found that this chlorinated solution worked best to remove the putrid smell of infected autopsy tissue, and thus perhaps destroying the causal "poisonous" or contaminating "cadaveric" agent hypothetically being transmitted by this material.
The result was that the mortality rate dropped ten-fold, comparable to the Second Clinic's. The mortality rate in April 1847 was 18.3%; after handwashing was instituted in mid-May, the rates in June were 2.2% July 1.2%, August 1.9% and, for the first time since the introduction of anatomical orientation, the death rate was zero in two months in the year following this discovery.

Quote:
(same source)work offered a theoretical explanation for Semmelweis's observations—the germ theory of disease. As such, the Semmelweis story is often used in university courses with epistemology content, e.g. philosophy of science courses—demonstrating the virtues of empiricism or positivism and providing a historical account of which types of knowledge count as scientific (and thus accepted) knowledge, and which do not. It is an irony that Semmelweis's critics considered themselves positivists. They could not accept his ideas of minuscule and largely invisible amounts of decaying organic matter as a cause of every case of childbed fever. To them, Semmelweis seemed to be reverting to the speculative theories of earlier decades that were so repugnant to his positivist contemporaries.
The so-called Semmelweis reflex — a metaphor for a certain type of human behaviour characterized by reflex-like rejection of new knowledge because it contradicts entrenched norms, beliefs or paradigms — is named after Semmelweis, whose perfectly reasonable hand-washing suggestions were ridiculed and rejected by his contemporaries.
Those ideas were radical for the time, but are accepted as sound now. And, since it's been a relatively recent development, only a hunnert and fifty years or so, right, I'd expect we're right what we should be paying real attention as a group.
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  #27  
Old 07-04-2010, 04:03 AM
Lynn Bodoni Lynn Bodoni is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrFidelius View Post
If you are a chemist, you wash your hands before you go.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ludovic View Post
Or if you cook with habaneros. Unless you've already gotten past that barrier already and certain parts are almost as numb to capsaicin as your taste buds

Not that I'm referring to anyone there....
It was a jalapeño, if you're thinking about the thread I'm thinking about.
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  #28  
Old 07-04-2010, 08:38 AM
Ludovic Ludovic is offline
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Nope, it's my own hard-won knowledge. I told you I was hardcore!
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  #29  
Old 07-04-2010, 12:57 PM
jtgain jtgain is online now
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You know when I wash my hands? When I shit on them. And that happens two to three times a week. Tops!--George Carlin
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