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Washing hands 5 times a day recommended by U.S. Health Center
Reuters News and American Journal of Preventive Medicine, August 2/01


U.S. Navy recruits who were ordered to wash their hands at least five times a day saw a decrease in respiratory illnesses of 45% from the year before, according to a study conducted by the Naval Health Research Center (NHRC).

Respiratory illness is a common cause of lost time from work in the U.S. and "the most common cause of lost time from duty among young adults in the military," the report indicates.

In the study, Operation Stop Cough was implemented at the Great Lakes Recruit Training Command in Illinois, beginning in September 1996. During the study, about 40,000 recruits were instructed by their commanding officer to wash their hands five times each day. Soap dispensers were installed and recruits were lectured monthly on the importance of handwashing.

Despite the program's success, almost half reported that they did not mhave time to wash five times a day due to their busy training schedules.

"In most offices, people are not inclined to wash their hands even before eating," Dr. Joel C. Gaydos of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland, writes in an accompanying editorial. "Re-emphasizing handwashing in our daily lives may provide significant benefits with little effort or cost, especially during the respiratory disease season," he notes.

Note: For the last 1,400 years, Muslims have been washing their hands five times a day prior to performing their prayers.
Click here for the original white paper (PDF).


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