With Fear of Spreading Germs High, Pennsylvanians Likely to Wash Hands Often, Poll Reveals


Nearly 80 percent of Pennsylvanians participating in a recent healthcare poll say theyre generally concerned about the spread of germs and infections. And, possibly as a result of those fears, participants in the poll say they wash their hands often.

According to The Patient Poll by the Pennsylvania Medical Societys Institute for Good Medicine, 78.4 percent of the polls 301 participants say theyre either very concerned or somewhat concerned about the spread of germs and infections.

Regarding handwashing, 46.6 percent say they wash their hands between five to 10 times a day, while another 17.2 percent will wash their hands more than 11 times each day.

It may seem like the simplest of things, but proper hand hygiene is often forgotten, says Peter S. Lund, MD, who heads the Pennsylvania Medical Societys Institute for Good Medicine.

Handwashing is a simple habit thats one of the best ways to avoid getting sick, says Lund. You can easily infect yourself by touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unclean hands, or you can spread germs by touching others or touching objects such as doorknobs that others will also touch. If you want to avoid getting the common cold, flu, and some gastrointestinal disorders, you should be washing your hands often.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), infectious diseases cost the United States $120 billion a year. More than 160,000 people die in the U.S. yearly from an infectious disease.

Pennsylvania Medical Society President Mark A. Piasio, MD, MBA, thinks those figures are staggering and that greater awareness of proper handwashing will help improve statistics, especially within healthcare settings.

Theres a great deal of concern about hospital-acquired infections these days, Piasio said. Anyone associated with a patient whether the person is a health care professional, hospital employee, or hospital guest should take time to wash their hands to help fight the spread of germs and infections. Piasio adds that hospital patients, or their loved ones, should ask everyone who enters the patients room and is potentially in contact with the patient whether they have washed their hands.

The Pennsylvania Medical Societys Institute for Good Medicine recommends that you wash your hands:

* After using a bathroom (private or public)

* After changing a diaper

* After touching an animal or items associated with animals

* Before and after food preparation

* Before eating

* After blowing your nose

* After coughing or sneezing into your hands

* Before and after treating cuts and wounds

* Before and after touching a sick or injured person

* After contact with blood or body fluid

* After handling garbage

* Before inserting or removing contact lenses

In addition, the Pennsylvania Medical Societys Institute for Good Medicine offers the following advice on how to wash your hands:

1. Wet your hands with warm, running water and apply soap.

2. Rub your hands as long as it takes to sing the Happy Birthday song

3. Scrub all surfaces including the backs of your hands, wrists, between fingers, and under fingernails

4. Rinse thoroughly

5. Dry hands with a clean or disposable towel

6. Turn off faucet using a towel

The Patient Poll by the Pennsylvania Medical Societys Institute for Good Medicine was conducted on January 10 with the help of the Taylor Brand Group of Lancaster and Greenfield Online. It has a 5.67 percent margin of error and included responses from throughout the state, representing a variety of ages and income levels. Nearly 87 percent of the participants carried some type of health insurance. The Patient Poll is designed to feel the pulse of Pennsylvanians on healthcare issues.

The Patient Poll Results

How concerned are you about the spread of germs and infections?

Very Concerned 36.8%

Somewhat Concerned 41.6%

A Little Concerned 19.3%

Not Concerned 2.4%

How often do you wash your hands on a daily basis on average?

0-2 times/day 4.1%

3-5 times/day 32.1%

5-10 times/day 46.6%

11 or more times/day 17.2%

Source: The Pennsylvania Medical Society

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