Hand hygiene on the decline

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: December 12th, 2008
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

“Deal or No Deal” host Howie Mandel might have the right idea. The germ-skittish T-V personality frequently bumps knuckles with contestants in lieu of shaking their hands or opts to avoid contact all together.

Research suggests there might be a good reason to avoid grimy mitts.

The Soap and Detergent Association recently gave Americans a C-minus for hand hygiene. Apparently the soap and water routine ingrained in our minds as children slips as we become older.

A research group conducted a telephone survey of nine-hundred-sixteen heads of households, including four-hundred fifty-eight men and women. Eighty-five percent of participants said they wash their hands after going to the bathroom. In 2006, that percentage was ninety-two. Thirty-nine percent of participants also admitted to never or seldom washing their hands after coughing or sneezing.

That’s not good news considering cold and flu season is upon us. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offer these hand hygiene tips:

Wet hands with running water and place soap in palms. Scrub hands vigorously for at least twenty seconds and rinse soap off hands.

If possible, turn off the faucet by using a disposable paper towel. Dry hands with a disposable paper towel. Do not dry hands on clothing.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used if soap and water cannot be made available and are effective against multiple common disease agents.

And while you don’t really need to forego a good old-fashioned handshake, it’s probably a good idea to wash up afterward.