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Why Do I Have to Wash My Hands After Using the Bathroom?

You might wonder why hand washing is so important after going to the bathroom. As one kid put it: I don't wash my hands every time I touch my stomach so why do I have to wash after every time I pee?

The problem isn't necessarily with touching your own body when you go to the bathroom, though there may be more germs in those body areas than, say, your elbow. The bigger problem is that lots of people use the bathroom and everyone carries germs with them that could spread to others.

Be honest: Do you always wash your hands after using the bathroom?

Poop, especially, contains a lot of germs, including E. coli, which can make you sick. Those germs are tiny and invisible, so they can be hiding on the faucet, doorknob, and other bathroom surfaces.

In the bathroom, you can easily get some germs on your hands and, if you don't wash up properly, you just might take them with you. Those germs could get into your body and make you sick — like if you eat your lunch with those unwashed hands. Or you could make someone else sick — like if you give a new friend a nice handshake with those germy hands and then she goes and eats her lunch!

By washing your hands, you rinse away those bathroom germs, protecting yourself and others. In addition to washing your hands, you might want to take some extra precautions when you're in a public restroom. The fewer surfaces you touch, the better. You can use a paper towel to turn on the faucet and to open the door on your way out.

And even though that automatic flush might surprise you, it helps reduce germs spread by flushing the toilet. Fortunately, a lot of public bathrooms have automatic flushes, water dispensers, soap dispensers, and towel dispensers (or dryer machines). Hooray for technology giving your hands a helping hand!

Reviewed by: Rupal Christine Gupta, MD
Date reviewed: August 2014

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Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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