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May 2017

Infections you can spread by not washing your hands

Written by Nicole Horne
Cleanliness and Hygiene

From a very young age we’re told to wash our hands after using the bathroom or before preparing food. While we know this is for hygiene reasons, do we know exactly how important is it to practice proper hand washing techniques?

One of the biggest problems with not washing our hands after using the bathroom is that throughout the day we touch so many things. Other people then touch these things as well, and when we then touch our nose or mouth, we can pick up infections. As well as this, if you prepare foods with dirty hands, people can catch infections by eating the food you have prepared.

Below we have listed some of the infections and diseases which can be spread by not washing your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom.


Norovirus is the most common cause of viral gastroenteritis in humans and it can affect people of all ages. It’s transmitted when people don’t wash their hands[1] and worryingly, norovirus can spread very quickly within large groups of people in close quarters. This is why when one person gets ill, entire households or offices often follow.

The best way to stop noroviruses from spreading or occurring in the first place is to wash your hands thoroughly after using the bathroom, before preparing food and to avoid touching your nose and mouth.

Airborne illnesses

Respiratory illnesses are usually spread via droplets which have been breathed, sneezed or coughed into the air by someone who has the illness. While sneezing and coughing help to spread illnesses, poor hand washing techniques are a big culprit as well.

Common respiratory illnesses caused by poor hand hygiene include the common cold, influenza, chickenpox and meningitis.

Nosocomial infections

We often hear of infections being transmitted in hospitals and this is often the result of staff and patients not washing their hands. Naturally there are a huge number of infections present in hospitals and if staff don’t wash their hands between seeing patients or if people with an infection aren’t practicing good hand hygiene, they can very easily pass their illness onto others.

Some of the most common nosocomial infections which can be spread by germs and bacteria on our hands include MRSA and E.coli.

Hepatitis A

Hepatitis A is a viral infection which can cause severe symptoms including problems with the liver, jaundice, abdominal pain, fever and fatigue. It’s often spread via food which has been contaminated by the unwashed hands of the people preparing it. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, digesting even microscopic traces of contaminated faecal matter can cause transmission of the disease.

Practising good hand washing techniques is one of the easiest and most effective ways of preventing illnesses from spreading. This is something that is particularly important in the workplace where large groups of people can catch the same infection.

Have a look at this video where a group of kids show you the best way to wash your hands to prevent cross-contamination.

For more information about Initial’s infection control solutions, please feel free to contact us.

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Nicole Horne

Nicole Horne

Nicole is a Digital Marketing Executive at Rentokil Initial Hygiene in Johannesburg. A self-proclaimed germaphobe, her love for hygienic environments and curiosity of all things “beneath the surface” fuels her enthusiasm for writing about the impact of germs in the workplace. She is passionate about creating awareness and sharing her knowledge on the impact of good hygiene practices. Follow Nicole on Twitter and LinkedIn for updates on the the good, the bad and the germy.

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