I think it’s a safe assumption that if hand hygiene compliance by nurses, doctors and on other healthcare workers is lacking then those of us not in a healthcare related field (especially our children) must be dismal. Depending on where you look the rates for hand hygiene within healthcare facilities varies. One study I found looked at hand hygiene in ICU versus non-ICU settings. Prior to initiating the 12-month study, compliance rates were 26% for ICU settings and 36% for non-ICU settings. After the 12-month study, which included education and feedback the rates improved slightly to 37% and 51% respectively. PATHETIC – especially when we know that hand hygiene is the single most important factor in the prevention of health care associated infections.
This is in part why I found the study published in the American Journal of Infection Control so interesting. Miko, BA, et al investigated the knowledge and beliefs towards personal and household hygiene of college students (AJIC,2012;40:940-945). The results were quite interesting. When looking at personal hygiene (hand washing, bathing and tooth brushing), women reported higher rates of “compliance” than did men. Thankfully, almost 75% of the study participants reported washing their hands after using the toilet (I shudder to think what the remaining 25% are doing or touching after they have used the toilet……). Greater than 65% reported daily showering and twice daily tooth brushing – I’d hazard a guess, this group likely has a significant other! What was interesting is that Freshmen had better hygiene rates than seniors and science majors had better hygiene rates than humanity majors. I am SO thankful I am a woman who was a science major! I plead the fifth as to whether my personal hygiene decreased over my 4 years at school…. I ALWAYS washed my hands after my biology labs where we were touching or dissecting things!
When it came to looking at household hygiene, the frequency of cleaning was remarkably varied. Greater than 50% reported cleaning their rooms weekly (I’m not sure I did that during my two years living in residence, my roommates and I did clean weekly once we moved into a house) and there was no difference in cleaning frequency when the student was ill, but many would increase cleaning if their roommate was ill.
We know that deficiencies in hand hygiene practices have been associated with outbreaks of viral gastroenteritis and upper respiratory tract infections and we have the science to prove that hand hygiene will decrease your chance of getting these infections by 31% and 21% respectively. We’re certainly doing a better job starting in Pre-School to reinforce the need and importance of washing your hands and covering your mouth. I’m not sure if I’m proud or embarrassed, but my son is the class tattle tale if he sees his pre-school classmates coming out of the bathroom without washing their hands….
Perhaps when we’re sending our college age kids off to school, we need to reinforce the importance of cleaning their rooms as well. And dads…you may want to tell your sons they will have a better chance finding a girl if they shower daily and brush their teeth!
This week I participated in a webinar titled “A Clean Approach to Flu Prevention” where we touched on the science behind why we need to clean, hand hygiene and how to clean. It ties in nicely with this blog and maybe if your kid won’t sit and listen to you expound on the virtue of good personal hygiene, perhaps they’ll watch a video!