A poll conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of LifeBridge Health reveals that when in a public restroom without soap or towels, 74 percent of American adults who use public restrooms would rinse their hands with water and let them air dry.
They might as well not even bother,” says John Cmar, M.D., an internist at LifeBridge Health’s Sinai Hospital of Baltimore and expert on infectious diseases. “Washing with water alone does not get rid of microbes the action of working up lather with soap, and then rinsing it off, is what washes them away. Plus, by touching the sink faucet one of the dirtiest things in a restroom these people could be adding even more germs to their hands.
The survey asked 2,257 U.S. adults aged 18+, of whom 2,208 use public restrooms. The poll also revealed that only 12 percent of public restroom users would immediately go find another place to wash their hands in that situation, though that number increases to 17 percent among those aged 18 to 44 and 19 percent among females in that same age range.
Six percent of males aged 18 to 34 who use public restrooms said if there were no soap or paper towels in a public restroom then they would give themselves a “free pass” and not wash their hands at all. This self-reported number is much lower than what past observational studies have revealed; a prior study conducted in four U.S. cities observed 34 percent of men (presumed to be aged 18+) neglecting to wash their hands at all in public restrooms, despite the availability of soap, towels and running water.
To avoid getting sick, it is critical that people know how to wash their hands the right way,” says Jackie Daley, director of Infection Prevention and Control at Sinai Hospital. “Many people think the water temperature kills the germs on their hands, but water from a faucet could never get hot enough to do that,” she says. “The keys are the soap, the length of scrubbing time and drying your hands thoroughly with towels afterwards.” Daley stresses that people need to scrub their hands with soap and water for at least 15 to 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, then an alcohol-based hand rub will work to destroy germs. Finding restrooms with touchfree fixtures is preferable to using the ones you have to touch to operate.
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