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Children's Health

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Grim Grades on Clean Hands Report Card

Students Nearly Flunk Clean Hands Quiz; Parents, Teachers Have Room for Improvement
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Sept. 7, 2007 -- America's school kids, their parents, and their teachers might need to brush up on their hand hygiene, according to the 2007 "Clean Hands Report Card."

The report card, issued by the Soap and Detergent Association (SDA), comes before this year's cold and flu season starts -- so it's not too late to upgrade your hand-washing habits to help prevent the spread of cold and flu germs.

Overall, the SDA gives students, parents, teachers, and school nurses/health professionals a "C" grade for hand hygiene. Here are the specific grades for each group:

  • Students: D
  • Dads: D+
  • Moms: B-
  • Teachers: B-
  • School nurses/health professionals: B+

The grades are based on surveys completed over the summer by 508 teachers, 356 health professionals (mostly school nurses), 326 students, 311 dads, and 353 moms.

The surveys included questions about how long people spend washing their hands and how often they wash their hands.

Clean Hands Survey

In the survey, most participants indicated that they always wash their hands after going to the bathroom.

However, less than a quarter of the students and half of the teachers said they always wash their hands before eating lunch.

Only 27% of teachers, about 18% of students, almost 33% of school nurses/health professionals, and about 30% of parents said they always wash their hands after coughing or sneezing.

Many people may not spend long enough lathering up. The CDC recommends washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds.

But according to the survey, nearly 46% of teachers, 44% of school nurses/health professionals, 51% of students, and 42% of parents said they typically wash their hands for 15 seconds or less.

The parents' survey, completed by telephone, has a 3.8% margin of error. The SDA doesn't list a margin of error for the students, teachers, and school nurses/health professionals' surveys, which were completed at conferences.

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