Nursing Faculty Stresses Washing Hands


ATLANTA – Singing “Happy Birthday” while you wash your hands could keep you from getting the flu, according to faculty at Mercer University’s Georgia Baptist College of Nursing in Atlanta. 

“There are many diseases that can’t be cured, but dirty hands can be,” said Dr. Linda Streit, nursing professor and associate dean for the graduate program. “That sounds simple, but most people aren’t as consistent and thorough in washing their hands as they should be.”

            According to studies conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

·        Only two-thirds of American adults wash their hands after using the toilet – significantly more women than men.

·        One out of four adults does not wash after changing a baby’s diaper, creating a high risk of giving the caregiver and other children infectious diarrhea and other diseases.

·        Fewer than half wash their hands after handling pets or cleaning up after them.

·        One in three washes after sneezing or coughing.

·        Not even one in five washes after handling money, a major carrier of disease germs.

·        Children who washed their hands four times a day missed 51 percent fewer school days due to upset stomach, and 24 percent fewer days due to respiratory illness than those who washed less.

“If you do not wash your hands frequently, you pick up germs from other sources and infect yourself when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth,” noted Streit. “Hand washing prevents not only something like the common cold, but more serious diseases like hepatitis A, meningitis and infectious diarrhea.”

Streit said there is a right and a wrong way to wash hands, and outlined the following steps for ensuring hands are washed properly:

·        Wet your hands using warm (not hot) water and apply soap to kill the germs.

·        Rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all surfaces, for 10 to 15 seconds (about the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.”)

·        Rinse well and dry your hands on a paper towel or clean cloth towel. Turn off the water using the towel to avoid a recontamination of your clean hands. You can also use the towel to open the door, especially in public places.

Streit noted that 80 percent of germs are spread by hands, and the bulk of germs are hiding where you least expect. Playground equipment, phone receivers, ATMs and elevator buttons typically have more germs than public restroom doorknobs, public restroom toilet seats and picnic tables. At home, the kitchen sink is one of the places with the most germs.

About Mercer University

Founded in 1833, Mercer University has campuses in Macon and Atlanta as well as three regional academic centers. With 10 schools and colleges, the University offers programs in liberal arts, business, engineering, education, medicine, nursing, pharmacy, law and theology. For 15 consecutive years, U.S. News & World Report has named Mercer University as one of the leading universities in the South.

The founding of Georgia Baptist College of Nursing at Mercer University in 1902 was born out of a vision to establish a Baptist institution for the training of “Christian nurses” to “heal the needy sick.” More than 100 years later, some 6,000 men and women have graduated from the Atlanta-based College of Nursing, now part of one of the largest Baptist universities in the world since its 2001 merger with Mercer. The College requires students to undergo a unique three-year clinical sequence and offers clinical experiences in more than 40 of the Atlanta area’s most recognized healthcare agencies.