The Soap and Detergent Association (SDA) announced in a Sept. 7 press release the results of its third Clean Hands Report Card. The overall grade was a C; the 2006 Report Card had a slightly lower C- grade. Health professionals and school nurses received the best grade, a B+, followed by a B- for teachers. Students themselves received the worst grade, a D. Parents were graded by sex, which revealed a significant difference between moms and dads. Dads received a D+, while moms earned a B-.
The 2007 Report Card grades were based on telephone surveys of 664 parents/guardians of children in grades K-12 and 1,190 written surveys taken at national conferences attended by teachers (508), school nurses and health professionals (356) and students (326) in June and July. The phone survey of parents/guardians – 311 men and 353 women – was done between July 26 and Aug. 5.
The surveys asked the respondents not only about their handwashing behavior throughout the day, but about their knowledge of hand hygiene and its relationship to infectious diseases.
It came as no surprise that school health professionals knew the most and were the most likely to put their knowledge into practice. The majority reported washing their hands at least 10 times a day, and nearly all of them (97 percent) reported washing their hands after using the bathroom.
Students and their dads, on the other hand, indicated by their responses that hand hygiene is just not that important, thus the “D” grades.
The Tacoma/Pierce County, Wash., Health Dept. (TPCHD) says that “handwashing is so basic and routine in our lives that it’s often taken for granted.” And like the SDA surveys found, the TPCHD says children are especially in need of proper instruction if they are to learn the importance of good hand hygiene and how to wash their hands effectively.
Nancy Bock is the SDA Vice President of Education. She said that with “cold and flu season coming up, good hand hygiene is vital to infection control. Cleaning our hands is especially critical at school and at work, where germs lurk in every corner and in every handshake.” The TPCHD voices similar advice: “Washing your hands correctly and frequently is the first step toward staying healthy and can help us avoid spreading and receiving germs.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the primary way colds and flu germs are spread is through coughs and sneezes. Once germ-bearing respiratory droplets are deposited on any number of surfaces, such as desks, cafeteria tables and doorknobs, they are easily spread from the hands to the eyes, mouth and nose. Since some viruses and bacteria can live as long as two hours on surfaces outside the body, frequent handwashing is critical to eliminating the spread of these disease-bearing germs.
Thus, children in school need to be taught and practice the bottom line of germs and hygiene: cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and wash your hands often with soap and water.
If we truly understood the quantity and variety of germs we carry on our hands every day, we’d be astounded. When we “forget” to wash our hands, or wash them incorrectly, germs are easily spread to others.
Press release, America’s Clean Hands Report Card: Students Barely Pass; Parents Average Just a “C”; http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/533142/
Tacoma/Pierce County Health Dept.; http://www.tpchd.org/page.php?id=19
CDC; Stopping Germs at Home, Work and School; http://www.cdc.gov/germstopper/home_work_school.htm