CDC: Continued Hand Hygiene Education Efforts are Needed to Reduce COVID-19 Spread

Pharmacists can play an important role in educating patients about hand hygiene measures during COVID-19.

As the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic persists, hand hygiene education is critical to prevent the spread. Preventing the spread of COVID-19 is crucial to public health, and individuals should continue practicing social distancing, mask wearing, and frequent handwashing.

Individuals should wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after visiting a public place, blowing their nose, coughing, or sneezing.1 If soap and water are not readily available, then hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol should be used.1

Pharmacists can play an important role in educating patients about hand hygiene measures during COVID-19.

CDC Study

A CDC study evaluated how handwashing behavior among US adults has changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.2 Data from ConsumerStyles fall and summer surveys by Porter Novelli Public Services, from October 2019 (prepandemic) and June 2020 (during pandemic), were compared to assess changes in adults remembering to wash their hands in the following 6 situations: after using the bathroom at home; after using the bathroom in public; after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose; before eating at home; before eating at a restaurant; and before preparing food at home.2

The October 2019 survey was completed by 3624 participants (77.5% response rate), and 4053 individuals (62.7% response rate) completed the June 2020 survey.2 Survey participants frequently reported remembering to wash their hands before preparing food at home in 2019 (86.5%) and 2020 (85.7%); after using the bathroom at home in 2019 (85.9%) and 2020 (89.6%); and after using the bathroom in public in 2019 (95.5%) and 2020 (94.8%). However, individuals less commonly remembered to wash their hands before eating at home in 2019 (62.8%) and 2020 (74.4%); before eating at a restaurant in 2019 (55.2%) and 2020 (70.6%); and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose in 2019 (53.3%) and 2020 (71.2%).2

Survey participants were more likely to remember to wash their hands after experiencing respiratory symptoms, before eating in a restaurant, and before eating at home in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic than in October 2019.2 However, the study revealed that approximately 1 of 4 people do not wash their hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose.2

This study provides important information about hand hygiene measures during the pandemic. However, surveys have limitations, such as not being able to assess causality and recall bias, that can affect the results.

Counseling Pearls

Even though the report demonstrates that handwashing has increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, more public education efforts are needed to reinforce the importance of hand hygiene measures. Pharmacists should educate patients to always wash their hands after using the bathroom; before and after preparing or eating food; after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose; before and after touching their eyes, nose, or mouth; after going to a public place and touching surfaces; and before and after touching their mask. These hand hygiene measures are extremely important, especially as more businesses and schools continue to reopen during the pandemic.

REFERENCES

  • CDC. How to protect yourself & others. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/prevention.html. Updated September 11, 2020. Accessed October 8, 2020.
  • Haston JC, Miller GF, Berendes D, et al. Characteristics Associated with Adults Remembering to Wash Hands in Multiple Situations Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic — United States, October 2019 and June 2020. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69:1443—1449. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6940a2.