Despite the threat of getting sick during cold and flu season, less Americans say they are regularly washing their hands.

The fourth Clean Hands Report Card®, issued by The Soap and Detergent Association, gives Americans a “C-minus” for their hand hygiene habits, the same grade they received back in 2006.

The Report Card is based on a series of hygiene-related questions asked of 916 Americans during a telephone survey conducted in August 2008 by Echo Research.  

Among the findings of SDA’s 2008 survey:
• Only 85% say they always wash their hands after going to the bathroom (down from 92% in 2006).
• 46% of respondents wash their hands 15 seconds or less.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and SDA recommends washing with soap at least 15-20 seconds.
• 39% surveyed seldom or never wash their hands after coughing or sneezing (compared to 36% in 2006).  
• 35% don’t always wash before eating lunch (in 2006, 31% failed to wash up before lunch.

“Americans should prepare for the onslaught of cold and flu season,” said Nancy Bock, SDA Vice President of Education.  “Cleaning your hands regularly throughout the day can help keep you out of the doctor’s office or the emergency room.”

The CDC reports that each year in the United States, on average:
• More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications.  
• 20,000 of those hospitalized are children younger than 5 years old.  
• 36,000 people die from flu.