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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Hand Washing Catching On in U.S.

In Major Cities, 85% of Adults Are Washing Their Hands After Using Public Facilities, Study Shows

Media Coverage Has Helped Improve Behaviors

Daly also says increased public awareness of infectious diseases, in part because of media coverage, has helped change behavior toward better cleanliness.

“The message is that people are getting the message,” says Nancy Bock, vice president of consumer education for ASI. “Between mom’s common-sense advice and the recent pandemic scare, people now seem to realize the importance of when and how you wash your hands.”

Daly says that although progress has been made, much work still needs to be done to make Americans more conscious of the need to wash their hands. She says that only 39% of people surveyed said they washed their hands after coughing or sneezing, and improvement could reduce respiratory and gastrointestinal illnesses transmitted by germ-filled hands, which spread bugs to mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, and mouth.

“Whether it’s cold and flu season or baseball season, hand washing is a no-brainer,” Bock says. “Washing with soap and water for 20 seconds or more is a simple way to stay healthy. And if you’re out and about, hand sanitizers or hand wipes are good alternatives for keeping your hands clean.”

A report that details findings recommends that people wash their hands:

  • After using the restroom.
  • Before, during, and after preparing food, especially poultry, raw meat, or seafood.
  • Before and after meals and snacks.
  • Before inserting or removing contact lenses.
  • After touching animals or handling their waste.
  • After changing a diaper.
  • Before and after caring for someone who’s sick or injured.
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • More frequently than usual when someone at home is sick.
  • Anytime your hands are dirty.

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