The study, conducted in a U.S. college town, found that only about 5 percent of people wash their hands for as long as is recommended. That means that about 95 percent of us aren’t washing our hands long enough!
Researchers discovered that about 67 percent of people use soap when washing their hands, 23 percent wet their hands but skip the soap and another 10 percent of participants don’t wash their hands at all after using the bathroom. (Yuck!)
So why do these findings matter?
Many people don’t understand how important hand-washing is for preventing the spread of diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that poor hand-washing practices contribute to half of all foodborne illness outbreaks. Visitors to Yellowstone National Park this summer are being urged to practice good hand hygiene among other steps to protect against a spike in gastrointestinal illness that has struck in and around the park.
Washing your hands is also one of the best ways to prevent spread of the flu.
By frequently washing your hands, you wash away germs that you have picked up from other people and surfaces or from animals and their waste. Washing your hands properly not only protects you from getting sick, but also protects other people, too.
Now that you understand how important hand-washing is, here are a few tips on how to do it right:
- Wet your hands using warm water.
- Wash with soap for at least 20 seconds. (A good guide is to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.)
- Rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all skin surfaces.
- Be sure to rinse all of the soap off your hands.
- When soap and water aren’t available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can tide you over until you reach a sink.
For more tips and our fact sheet series, visit the Get Ready hand-washing page.