Washing your hands removes germs.
Many people mistakenly believe that soap kills germs. This is not the case, but Marla Ahlgrimm says that soap and water does something even better: it removes the germs completely. Washing your hands can literally wash away everything from E. coli and norovirus to salmonella and even the now-dreaded Covid-19 novel coronavirus strain. It’s important to know that when you do not wash your hands, the germs on your fingers and palms are transferred to everything you touch, including other people. Marla Ahlgrimm stresses that this is akin to a spark on a dry field and can easily turn into a wildfire of disease.
Handwashing by the numbers.
According to Marla Ahlgrimm, handwashing can eliminate up to 40% of all diarrhea cases in the United States. And for people with a weakened immune system, this number rises to nearly 60%. Respiratory illnesses, including the common cold and the flu, can be reduced by 20% or more simply by spending the 20 seconds it takes to properly wash your hands. Marla Ahlgrimm says that teaching children how to properly wash their hands can reduce absenteeism caused by gastrointestinal diseases by up to 57% in school-age children.
Sadly, nearly 2 million children die each year from pneumonia and diarrheal diseases. This is mostly in undeveloped countries where soap and warm water are not readily available, says Marla Ahlgrimm.
The most impactful way that washing your hands affects the world, says Marla Ahlgrimm, is that it reduces reliance on antibiotics, which means that it directly reduces antibiotic resistance. This is crucial, particularly for people with weakened immune systems that need antibiotics in emergencies, because it means these antibiotics can get to work saving lives.