Parents have been telling their children to wash their hands for generations.

The results are less than impressive. Worldwide, only 19 percent of kids wash their hands after going to the bathroom.

Dr. Nicole Odom with Heritage Health said parents should continue to emphasize proper handwashing with their children.

“Set a good example by being a good handwashing role model,” said Odom. “These are lifelong habits to develop and keeping hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.”

The Centers for Disease Control says that handwashing can prevent about 30% of diarrhea-related sicknesses and about 20% of respiratory infections (e.g., colds).

Reducing the number of these infections by washing hands frequently also helps prevent the overuse of antibiotics—the single most important factor leading to antibiotic resistance around the world. Handwashing can also prevent people from getting sick with germs that are already resistant to antibiotics and that can be difficult to treat.

Is anti-bacterial soap a good option?

“It is now recommended to use just regular soap rather than anti-bacterial soap when washing hands,” said Odom. “Proper technique is the key in that the use of soap over all areas of the hand removes the bacteria. Washing hands effectively takes 20 seconds. Use of anti-bacterial soap promotes the development of ‘super-bugs’ that are difficult to treat with antibiotics should an infection occur.”

Feces from people or animals is an important source of germs like Salmonella, E. coli O157, and norovirus that cause diarrhea. Exposure to feces can also spread some respiratory infections like adenovirus and hand-foot-mouth disease. These kinds of germs can get onto hands after people use the toilet or change a diaper, but also in less obvious ways, like after handling raw meats that have invisible amounts of animal poop on them. A single gram of human feces—which is about the weight of a paper clip—can contain one trillion germs.

Washing your hands after going to the bathroom seems like such a simple thing and it is. Wash those hands.