As states across the U.S. report growing numbers of flu cases, some severe, it’s no surprise that nearly 60% of Americans are extremely or quite concerned about contracting a new or particularly resilient strain of the flu this year, according to the newly released 2018 Healthy Hand Washing Survey. The ninth annual survey was conducted by Bradley Corporation in early January.
While the flu is widespread, the survey reveals that Southerners are more worried about catching it than adults in the Northeast, Midwest, or West. 34% of those in southern states are extremely concerned, compared to 23% who feel that way in the three other regions of the U.S.
According to medical experts, the best defense against sickness is to ramp up hand washing. Fortunately, Americans are heeding that advice: 61% of respondents make it a point to wash up more frequently to avoid getting germs or passing them on to others.
“Hand washing with warm water and soap is a simple and effective way to reduce the risk of contracting viral infections like the flu or the common cold,” said medical microbiologist Michael P. McCann, Ph.D., professor of biology, Saint Joseph’s University. “Getting the virus on your hands and then touching your eyes, nose, or mouth is a common way people become infected so effective hand washing can reduce that risk.”
In addition to increased hand washing, the survey found Americans try to fend off colds and the flu by supporting their overall wellbeing: 53% increase their fluid intake, 47% take vitamin C or a preventative supplement, and 40% try to get more sleep.
On the home front, nearly 80% escalate their cleaning and sanitizing. If a family member is sick or a bug is going around, they proactively wipe down bathroom surfaces, wash sheets and/or towels and clean kitchen surfaces. That’s a good practice since according to Dr. McCann, cold and flu viruses can persist on solid surfaces like sinks, countertops, doorknobs, and phones for about a day.
The survey also found that, while 56% stay home when they’re sick, those who are ill change the way they greet people: 51% wave hello, others simply avoid shaking hands, and some utilize a fist bump or air kiss instead.
Unfortunately, when asked about their hand washing habits in public restrooms, just two-thirds of respondents say they “always” wash their hands after using a public restroom. Moreover, 38% report they “frequently” see others leave a public restroom without washing.
“These statistics point to an increasing number of people who aren’t cleaning their hands when they’re in public places,” says Jon Dommisse, director of strategy and corporate development for Bradley Corp. “No matter where you are — at home, at work or out-and-about — hand washing is a must, especially this time of year. Diligent washing with soap and water is a simple and effective way to remove sickness-causing germs and bacteria that we’re exposed to throughout the day.”