Are Your Hands Clean?
We all know that frequent hand-washing is the best way to keep germs at bay during cold and flu season, right?
Plus, we all learned to wash our hands after going to the bathroom, didn’t we?
Why, then, do I feel queasy about the results of a new study in the journal Human Communications Research?
The study started with a CDC statistic that 77 percent of males wash their hands when leaving a restroom. A survey of college-aged men at Michigan State University came close to that number, with 75 percent of guys self-reporting good hand hygiene habits. After researchers posted signs showing guys with MSU caps washing their hands, observers noted a change for the better. Priming the mental pump with relatable messages raised the MSU group of hand-washing guys to 86 percent.
So far, so good: Effective communication can change hygiene habits for the better. And the more men and women who wash their hands, the less likely it is that we’ll all swap crud germs. But what I want to know is this: What’s wrong with the rest of these guys?
Why are more than one-fifth of all guys walking around with unclean hands? That’s supposed to be a legal term—NOT a literal term for germ-spreading. And what’s wrong with the one-eighth who still won’t slather on a bit of soap and water even when signs remind them to do so?
Maybe we need to get more aggressive. We might perhaps speak up when we see people forgetting to wash their hands. Of course, that’s one thing when you know the person. It’s more awkward, and almost creepy, to say something like that to a total stranger. What if the person got angry or was unbalanced? Skip that idea.
Here’s another thought: Some tourist spots in Europe have these restroom monitors who won’t let you in unless you pay 10 crowns or something. Maybe those places could get rid of the fee for using the restroom and replace it with a penalty for people who won’t wash their hands. But then their coins would have extra germs on them, and they’d get circulated with the rest of the money supply. That would give new meaning to the term filthy lucre.