Report Gives Americans a 'C-minus' for Hand Hygiene Habits

Despite the threat of getting sick during cold and flu season, less Americans say they are regularly washing their hands.

The fourth Clean Hands Report Card®:, issued by The Soap and Detergent Association, gives Americans a "C-minus" for their hand hygiene habits, the same grade they received back in 2006.

The Report Card is based on a series of hygiene-related questions asked of 916 Americans during a telephone survey conducted in August 2008 by Echo Research. Among the findings of SDA's 2008 survey:

  • Only 85 percent say they always wash their hands after going to the bathroom (down from 92 percent in 2006).
  • 46 percent of respondents wash their hands 15 seconds or less. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SDA recommends washing with soap at least 15-20 seconds.
  • 39 percent surveyed seldom or never wash their hands after coughing or sneezing (compared to 36 percent in 2006).
  • 35 percent don't always wash before eating lunch (in 2006, 31 percent failed to wash up before lunch.

"Americans should prepare for the onslaught of cold and flu season," said Nancy Bock, SDA Vice President of Education. "Cleaning your hands regularly throughout the day can help keep you out of the doctor's office or the emergency room."

The CDC reports that each year in the United States, on average:

  • More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications.
  • 20,000 of those hospitalized are children younger than 5 years old.
  • 36,000 people die from flu.

SDA produces the annual Report Card to raise awareness of National Clean Hands Week, Sept. 21-27, which touts handwashing as the easiest path to staying healthy. Clean Hands Week is sponsored by the Clean Hands Coalition (www.cleanhandscoalition.org), an alliance of public and private partners working together to create and support coordinated, sustained initiatives to significantly improve health and save lives through clean hands.SDA has a variety of hand hygiene tips and educational resources available at http://www.cleaning101.com/handhygiene.

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