Prevention of Infection by Washing Hands, Part 2

Ever wandered into a public toilet and thought about all the bacteria there? Ever been a little afraid? Be afraid, be very afraid!

Which stall to use in the bathroom

Let’s start with your choice of stall. People are lazy by nature and will usually choose the first stall in a row. That one becomes the most used and dirtiest. Use the farthest stall from the entrance.

 

How to wash your hands

OK, you’re finished with your business; what do you do now?

Studies show that 33% of men and 20% of women say they do not wash their hands after using a public restroom. It seems that these people feel that touching their privates and then everything else in the world is quite normal! This despite the fact that 65% of women and 53% of men say that hand washing is critical. People do not practice what they preach. Prevention of Infections!

 

Which sink to use in a public restroom

Assume you are going to wash your hands. Which sink should you use? Given the above, your best bet for a clean sink is the one farthest away from the toilets—less people use that one!

Should you use an automatic sink or one with handles for water flow? Automatic faucets harbor more bacteria in their pipes because they are always primed with water. Use faucets with handles, but be sure to wash extra after touching them. You should use warm water for 1 to 2 minutes, about the duration of singing the happy birthday song. That’s what I taught my children when they were little.

Don’t forget that 25% of soap dispensers in public washrooms are contaminated with fecal material. The  bottom part of dispensers is constantly being touched by dirty hands, and the soap in the dispensers actually grows bacteria because dispensers are rarely cleaned!

 

Which method is best for drying wet hands?

Should you use an automatic dryer or paper towels? Paper towels are cleaner and more efficient at removing moisture and bacteria in a shorter time. Automatic driers take too long, so people don’t use them as much and dry their wet hands on their clothes/door handles as they exit the bathroom. Air driers also spread a fine mist of water-borne bacteria up to six feet away when blowing on your hands. This is the same distance that flushing a toilet splashes fecal bacteria! Use paper towels and keep them in hand to open the door on your way out of the bathroom.

A few months ago, the restrooms in my building were modified to allow entry and egress by an automatic door opener for the handicapped. I use it now, too, and avoid having to touch the door handles altogether.

 

Outside the bathroom at the gas station

Another area I have often thought needs sanitary improvement is the handles at gas pumps. Thousands of people touch them every week, and their hands have been all over the place. This makes the gas station a great place to get a disease.

A final note that has become part of “modern” life. Instead of reading the paper on the blog, people now play with their phones, transmitting fecal materials directly to a fomite that they then place… everywhere!

Sorry for all exclamation points on this blog but its scary stuff!!!!!!!!!!

Morad Tavallali, M.D., FACS