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Hand hygiene in Germany still insufficient

Hände waschenGlobal Handwashing Day on October 15

On Global Handwashing Day, October 15, the Federal Center for Health Education (BZgA) is highlighting how important correct and frequent handwashing is in preventing infectious diseases.

According to a representative study carried out by the BZgA, handwashing is not a given for everyone in Germany. Only 36 percent of respondents said that they wash their hands for the recommended time of at least 20 seconds. The study also showed that men wash their hands less frequently than women. The majority of respondents of both sexes (87 percent) always use soap or washing gel when washing their hands if possible. However, only two thirds (65 percent) said that they regularly wash between their fingers. Just three quarters (76 percent) carefully dry their hands as a matter of course.

“Regular handwashing can prevent many infectious diseases, such as colds or gastrointestinal infections”, stresses Prof. Dr. Elisabeth Pott, Director of BZgA. “A classic route of infection is through people’s own hands. Pathogens can enter the mucous membranes when you rub your eyes or touch your mouth. And then the cold, for example, has gotten in.” Regularly and thoroughly washing the hands – including between the fingers and the fingertips – with soap and carefully drying them with a clean towel is therefore essential, says Pott.

Another widespread bad habit is covering your mouth or nose with the palm of your hand when coughing or sneezing: But 66 percent do so – men more often than women (72 percent men, 60 percent women). Pathogens can easily be passed on via the hands. Particularly if you don’t wash your hands immediately after coughing or wiping your nose and then you shake someone’s hand. Less than a third (30 percent) of all respondents wash their hands immediately, according to the study. It is easy to reduce the risk of transfer if you cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm, sleeve or a handkerchief instead of your hand and then dispose of the handkerchief.

Practical hints and tips for hand hygiene are available for download or can be ordered free of charge at www.infektionsschutz.de.

© 2017 BKK PricewaterhouseCoopers 19. September 2017