Germaphobes Beware: New Survey Uncovers the Dirt on American's Fears and Strange Hygiene Habits

CINCINNATI -- To expose Americans' fears and the bizarre rituals they undertake to save themselves from getting sick, Procter & Gamble conducted a recent survey of more than 1,000 Americans nationwide to see what steps they take to deal with germs.

"Germs are transferred when we touch something or someone and then touch our mouth, nose or eyes," said Ronald W. Stout, MD, MPH, medical director for Procter & Gamble's Global Health & Wellbeing Business Unit. "This is true regardless of the season, so it is very important to maintain healthy habits and proper hygiene throughout the year to help prevent the spread of germs."

Maintaining proper hygiene is a lesson that Americans could certainly learn. In fact, half of those surveyed (49 percent) confessed that they don't wash their hands every time after sneezing into them, and men in particular are the main culprits, as 55 percent admit to walking around with germy hands from sneezing. And while 92 percent of people think others will get them sick with their germs, only 9 percent believe they will get other people sick. One in three (34 percent) believe that they are more likely to get sick from a complete stranger than from someone they know. Fearing that they may come in contact with germs, 18 percent avoid shaking hands altogether, and four in 10 (36 percent) believe public restrooms are the place where most people are careless about spreading germs. In fact, 30 percent admit to using tissues and/or paper towels to open doors, while 16 percent use their elbows.

In what could be the most telling sign of Americans' fear of catching a cold or flu, 22 percent will refuse to kiss their significant other, despite the age-old theory that love knows no boundaries.

This survey was conducted online within the United States by Kelton Research on behalf of Vicks Early Defense from September 12 to 17, 2007 among 1,048 adults (aged 18 and over) and 300 moms (aged 18 and over) with children in the household.

Source: Procter & Gamble