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Doesn't Anybody Wash Their Hands Anymore?

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Interestingly, people with incomes of $35,000 or less and those with a high-school education or less are more likely than wealthier and better-educated people to say they always wash their hands in these situations.

It may actually be easier to wash one's hands than most people think. "If you have good handwashing technique, antimicrobial soap is not necessary," Gerberding says. "The goal is to physically remove germs and flush them down the drain, not to kill them."

To do this in a public restroom requires several steps -- performed in the correct order. Here's the drill:

  • Get a paper towel first, and place it within reach of the sink.
  • Turn on the water and put soap on your hands. Rub them together for 15 seconds -- as long as it takes to say the ABCs.
  • Rinse thoroughly -- this is very important.
  • Use the towel to turn off the faucet.
  • Get another towel and dry your hands -- and use it to open the door on the way out so you don't have to touch the door handle. If the bathroom has an air blower, hit the button with your elbow, not your hand.

This time, the ASM is asking all doctors to join in the public education effort. "We are really asking for a major behavioral change," Gerberding says. "To get a sustained change over time, you have to change the whole culture. We know it takes a long, sustained effort to do this."

Daly tells WebMD that it will take a grassroots effort. "This time we are really pushing community-based tools and using the Internet quite a bit," she says. More information is available on the Internet at www.washup.org.

 

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Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

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