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Bathroom Reminders May Prod Guys to Wash Their Hands

FRIDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- There may be help in sight for legions of hygiene-challenged men who "forget" to wash their hands before exiting the bathroom -- especially important in cutting down germ transmission in flu season.

New research suggests that institutions could boost the percentage of young males who wash their hands by simply posting "good hygiene" messages in washrooms.

The researchers, led by Maria Lapinski of Michigan State University, asked men about hand washing upon leaving the restroom.

The men said they washed their hands 75 percent of the time. That may not be far off -- one study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 77 percent of men wash their hands when finishing in the washroom.

So, the researchers next posted signs in men's restrooms that said "4 out of 5 Males Wash Their Hands," with pictures of students wearing Michigan State University hats. The signs included details about proper hand-washing.

Lapinski's team then tracked hand-washing by restroom users and interviewed them after they left. With the signs in place, the men were more likely to wash their hands (86 percent of them did) and run the water longer compared to when the signs weren't there.

"It is important from a public health standpoint, because quality hand-washing can prevent transmission of many diseases, and we have good evidence that people typically don't do it as often or as well as they should," Lapinski said in an International Communication Association news release.

Now if signs could just tell men to put the seat down.

The study appears in the January issue of the journal Human Communication Research.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more on germs and hygiene.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: Human Communication Research, news release, Jan. 11, 2013

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