Strategic Handwashing Ramps Up During Virus Outbreaks

Survey reveals Americans’ adaptive hygiene behaviors in response to health alerts.

February 5, 2024

According to the 2024 Healthy Handwashing Survey conducted by Bradley Company, Americans are adopting strategic handwashing habits, particularly in response to seasonal virus outbreaks. The survey indicates that 74% of respondents increase their handwashing frequency or thoroughness during such times, and 54%  do so when they themselves feel ill. Anticipation of travel prompts 67% to prioritize hand hygiene, with this number rising to 77% during travel scenarios, including road trips and airport visits.

The study also highlights the importance of hand hygiene in public restrooms, where 89%  of participants reported washing their hands post-use. However, the lack of soap, paper towels, or functional sinks often hinders this practice. Notably, 29% of male respondents admitted to skipping handwashing in these situations, pointing to a gender gap in hygiene practices. Michael P. McCann, a medical microbiologist, underscores the critical role of regular handwashing in removing harmful germs and viruses, advocating for its recognition as an essential, yet simple, health precaution.

Initiated in 2009 amid the H1N1 outbreak, Bradley’s annual survey has documented handwashing behaviors over the years, noting a significant increase during the COVID-19 pandemic. Handwashing frequency peaked at an average of 10.5 times daily, compared to six times in pre-pandemic periods. Jon Dommisse, vice president of marketing and corporate communication at Bradley, emphasizes the constant relevance of hand hygiene, regardless of the current health climate, particularly in instilling this habit in children for lifelong health benefits.

Furthermore, the survey delves into parental efforts to encourage handwashing among children, with strategies ranging from direct reminders to the use of fun soaps. Despite these efforts, only a quarter of parents believe their children consistently adhere to handwashing directives, highlighting the challenge of ingraining effective hygiene habits from an early age to prevent disease spread.

For more information, visit Bradley Company’s website.

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