July 23, 2014
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Infection

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Study: Women wash up more diligently than men

Lady fingers tend to be more in touch with hygiene than their male counterparts, research suggests.

An observational study found that while 90% of women wash their hands after using a public washroom, only 75% of men do the same.

The study's authors warn that by not lathering up, we put ourselves at risk for diseases and infections, like influenza, hepatitis A, and meningitis.

"We unconsciously touch our mouths, noses and eyes many, many times each day," said Judy Daly, secretary of the American Society for Microbiology, which commissioned the study alongside the Soap and Detergent Association. "These mucous membranes are welcome mats for cold and flu viruses, which are readily transferred from unclean hands."

Investigators observed the hand washing habits of more than 6,300 people at six washrooms located in major public attractions, including a baseball stadium and a museum.

A related telephone survey of about 1,000 people asked respondents about their hand washing routines, showing a discrepancy between what people say they do and what they do in reality.

The findings show that 97% of women and 96% of men say they always or usually wash their hands after using a public washroom. The study also found men and women aren't washing their hands after engaging in activities that would certainly leave their hands unclean. For instance, less than half of respondents said they washed their hands after petting a cat or dog, 32% do so after coughing or sneezing and only 21% soap up after handling money.

"Although many Americans are beginning to recognize the importance of washing their hands, we still need to reach many others," noted Daly. "Our message is clear: one of the most effective tools in preventing the spread of infection is literally at your fingertips."

Here are some tips on healthy hand washing:

  • Use warm water when washing your hands and wrists.
  • Rub your hands, palm to palm, in a circular fashion.
  • Rinse well and dry your hands thoroughly.

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