Study: College students are lousy at hand washing

WashingHands1_blogThe next time you attend a college graduation, it might be a good idea to avoid the congratulatory firm handshake and go for the hug instead.

A recent study of college students at the University of Findlay in Ohio showed that more than half had large amounts of potentially infectious bacteria on their hands.

Researchers concluded that the college students studied didn’t wash their hands often enough, and didn’t do a very good job when they did.

According to an article, Xu Lu of the University of Findlay and colleagues looked at how well 224 students there were following the advice of the CDC when it came to washing their hands, and whether their habits correlated with rates of infectious diseases.

“It’s obvious that based on our study, many students’ hands were colonized by a large number of bacterial cells,” Lu said in the article. “But I certainly don’t know what the best way is to encourage people to wash their hands better.”

For the study, a quarter reported that they were sick with an infectious disease. More than half of those who were sick had sought medical help, while 47% said that they had to miss class or work for at least a day due to being sick.

The researchers swabbed the hands of the student volunteers three times — before they washed their hands, after they washed the way they normally did, and then they washed their hands using a procedure recommended by the CDC.

At the start, 58% of the volunteers were colonized by so many microbes that the researchers couldn’t make an accurate count. That was true for 67% of the students who were sick with an infectious disease.

Overall, normal hand washing significantly decreased the amount of germs on students’ hands and following the CDC procedure improved it even further.

But routine hand washing did not improve the germ count on the hands of the students who were sick. When they washed their hands according to the CDC protocol, however, there was a significant improvement.

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