by Brianna Crandall — March 8, 2019 — In the midst of this year’s flu season, Americans are taking preventive measures into their own hands. Three out of four say they step up their hand hygiene in response to virus outbreaks. Specifically, they wash more frequently, more thoroughly or longer, according to a national survey conducted by Bradley Corporation, a provider of commercial plumbing fixtures and washroom accessories used around the world. That’s good news because the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says hand washing is the easiest and most effective defense against illness.
The survey also found that half of adults make a conscious effort to drink more fluids to reduce their likelihood of catching a cold or the flu. A good number rely on vitamin C or a zinc supplement as a preventive measure while others avoid touching their face, mouth and nose. Unfortunately, in today’s 24/7 environment, just one out of three get more sleep to try to fend off illness.
The findings are part of the 10th annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey that queried 1,264 adults throughout the United States January 3-8, 2019.
When Americans are feeling ill, nearly two out of three use over-the-counter medicine as their go-to remedy. A second group visits the doctor, and a small number call their mom or conduct a virtual or online doctor visit. Approximately one out of five say they actually prefer to ignore their illness and hope it goes away. It may not be a surprise, but men were significantly more likely to ignore their illness than women.
The survey fortunately revealed that sick Americans are considerate. More than half stay home to avoid passing their germs onto others. They also wash their hands more frequently, use antibacterial soap whenever possible, sneeze into the crook of their elbow, and avoid shaking hands.
In terms of a preferred hand-cleaning method, nearly two out of three Americans believe their hands are less germy after washing with soap and water than after using hand sanitizer — a fact the CDC supports unequivocally.
According to the CDC, while hand sanitizer can be beneficial, washing with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs. And the CDC says it’s important to know that hand sanitizers are not effective when hands are visibly dirty.
Medical microbiologist Michael P. McCann, Ph.D., professor of biology, Saint Joseph’s University, explained:
The proper way to wash is to use clean water and soap. Rub your hands together and scrub front, back and in between your fingers for at least 20 seconds. Finally, rinse and dry. Thorough hand washing with a scrubbing motion is highly effective in removing bacteria, viruses and other disease-causing microorganisms from the surface of the skin.
10 years of hand washing insights
Bradley Corp. fielded its first Healthy Hand Washing Survey in July 2009 at a time when the H1N1 virus was a national concern. Back then, just 45% of Americans said they elevated their hand hygiene in response to virus outbreaks.
Today, that number has jumped to 73% who do a better job of washing up when there’s a significant virus going around.
A statistic that has remained relatively unchanged over the years is the fact that, then and now, Americans report washing their hands 87% of the time after using a public restroom. For the instances when they didn’t wash, the reasons cited include sinks that weren’t working or were unclean, or a lack of soap or paper towels — an obvious concern for facilities managers (FMs) and cleaning professionals.
Another interesting finding is the fact that women outperform men in hand hygiene. The survey has consistently revealed that men are more likely to skip the soap and simply rinse their hands after using a public restroom. In addition, men frequently report seeing others leave the restroom without washing their hands.
Surprisingly, it’s men who seem to respond to posted hand washing reminders more than women. In 2017 when the question was first posed, 44% of men said they were more likely to wash their hands after seeing a sign that requires employees to wash before returning to work compared to 34% of women.
Jon Dommisse, director of strategy and corporate development for Bradley Corp., pointed out:
For the past ten years, Americans have demonstrated they believe washing their hands after using a public restroom is very important. However, their actual hand washing follow-through appears to fluctuate depending on the prevalence and severity of flu outbreaks. Our intention for conducting this survey is to elevate awareness of the effectiveness of washing with soap and water, and help make diligent hand washing a health necessity year-round.
For more results and graphics about the 10th annual Healthy Hand Washing Survey, visit the Bradley website. The 2019 survey queried 1,264 American adults online about their hand washing habits in public restrooms and concerns about germs, colds and the flu. Participants were from around the country, were 18 years and older, and were fairly evenly split between men and women (49 and 51 percent).
Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin-based Bradley Corp. designs, manufactures, and sells commercial plumbing fixtures, washroom accessories, restroom partitions, emergency fixtures and solid plastic lockers.