I was using the bathroom at Tugman State Park in Oregon this summer. Four guys came in, did their bathroom business and then left without washing their hands. At Valley of the Rogue and Humbug Mountain State Parks, 12 out of 21 gentlemen didn’t wash their hands after using the commode.

I started wondering, “How many people wash their hands after peeing and pooping?”

I asked my partner to report how many females washed their hands after nature called. In seven different restrooms, only one teenage girl didn’t wash her hands. All the other females at least turned on the faucet.

Are women more consistent hand washers than men?

Now, this wasn’t a scientific study; just my partner and I keeping tabs as we used the various campgrounds, rest stops and other public bathrooms. As critical thinkers you should not take my word for it. Check it out yourself the next time you use the john. How many people don’t wash their hands?

Perhaps you find it easy to discount my results as, “That’s Oregon. We’re Gauchos.”

But consider this: I work at Student Health. Recently, I noticed a couple of students did not wash their hands before leaving our bathrooms. Again, Student Health, a place where there are likely going to be sick people. Even with that knowledge, some don’t wash their hands here.


If I were a betting man, I would bet that most just aren’t in the habit.

I’m here to encourage you to get in the habit.

If you search “hand washing” at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Web site the result screams out, “Washing Hands Saves Lives!” The Mayo Clinic Web site is less dramatic: “Handwashing: an easy way to prevent infection.” The message is the same: when we wash our hands, we remove germs that we’ve picked up from other people, ourselves, pets, contaminated surfaces and food.

Most of us aren’t very mindful of our hands: rubbing our eyes, putting food in our mouths and even picking our noses. We just do it. Non-washed hands directly deposit germs in warm, wet body orifices where they can happily multiply, thrive and eventually ruin our weekend.

So reduce your chances of infection by using proper hand washing technique:
1) Use clean water.
2) Use soap when possible – antibacterial soap is unnecessary.
3) Rub, rub, rub your hands together for twenty seconds. Make sure you reach every part of your hands, including under your nails.
4) Rinse under running water.
5) Dry hands on a clean towel.
6) If you don’t have access to soap and water, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.

Ideal times to wash your hands are before cooking, eating, treating a cut or working with someone who has a compromised immune system. Also, after using the toilet, playing with pets, touching garbage and blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing.

If you already wash your hands consistently, thank you for saving our lives. But don’t stop there. Gently remind your friends to, “Wash your hands because I love you” or show your appreciation with a little, “Thank you for preventing infection.” There is nothing like a little positive peer pressure to help habits form.

If you are not consistent, be aware Gauchos are watching to see if you wash your hands.

Wellness tip of the week: find out what your strengths (VIA Signature Strengths) you can use in new ways to make you happier: http://www.authentichappiness.org.