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At colleges and universities across the country, students aren’t just being exposed to a learning environment. They are also being exposed to germs and viruses that can be easily passed from student to student and keep them from their studies. The primary method of transmission of germs is by hand which can spread the common cold, influenza, Salmonella, E. coli, and many other harmful bacteria and viruses. According to a recent survey on hand hygiene behavior conducted on behalf of SCA, 68 percent of college students say the reason they missed classes was due to illness.

This survey of more than 300 U.S. college students revealed some particular places and instances where handwashing is important (and not so important) to students. School administrators might be surprised at where are college students are getting it right and where are they missing the mark when it comes to hand hygiene. Seventy-three percent of college students routinely wash their hands after working out at the gym or student health center

  • Nearly 70 percent of respondents wash their hands after an on-campus flu outbreak
  • Nearly half of college students surveyed noted they do not regularly wash their hands after taking public transportation
  • Fifty-seven percent of students do not routinely wash their hands after returning to their dorm or home from class

The survey also exposed that nearly one in four U.S. college students do not feel their campus has adequate handwashing and/or hand sanitizing stations available for student use. To benefit campus life, school administrators should evaluate areas to increase the number of hand hygiene facilities and encourage proper hygiene practices among the student body. Besides warm water, proper handwashing tools include mild soap and a method to thoroughly dry hands. Drying hands plays an important role in effective handwashing as SCA research has shown that damp hands spread up to 500 times more germs than dry hands.

Some tips to help school facility managers to improve hand hygiene practices and facilities on campus include:

  • Place hand sanitizing stations in high traffic areas such as the student lounges, near main entry doors or by the food courts.
  • Hang posters in restrooms demonstrating proper handwashing techniques.
  • Inspect soap and paper towel dispensers to ensure they are in proper working order and replace any malfunctioning equipment.
  • Stock restrooms with plenty of paper towels. According to a separate survey conducted on behalf of SCA, North American consumers prefer using paper towels to dry their hands, with more than 70 percent preferring this drying method.

By taking a few extra steps to provide more accessible hand hygiene facilities to campus life, school administrators maintain the health of students so they can focus on their studies and academic success.

About Donna Duberg

Donna Duberg, an expert in hygiene and an authority on disease prevention, is an assistant professor of clinical laboratory science at Saint Louis University. She has been lauded as a credible media source both nationally and in St. Louis, where she makes recurring appearances as the “St. Louis Germ Expert” on local FOX newscasts. Duberg believes that proper hand sanitation techniques combined with a consistent cleaning regimen can go a long way to halt the spread of germs and viruses, whether in the privacy of one’s home or in a public area.