Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

The Effectiveness of Sign Prompts to Increase Hand Washing Behaviors in Restrooms

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

The Effectiveness of Sign Prompts to Increase Hand Washing Behaviors in Restrooms

Article excerpt

During fall and winter months, influenza or "the flu" is a major topic of concern among many Americans. According to the Center for Disease Control, the flu virus is a serious and contagious disease that is mainly spread when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk, and leave droplets of the disease on other people and on various surfaces (CDC, 2013). The flu virus presents with symptoms such as fever, headache, cough, and sore throat; however, the symptoms may progress into vomiting, diarrhea, hospitalization and occasionally death. According to the CDC (2013), during the 2012-2013 season, the following types of flu virus have been identified in the United States: Influenza A, Influenza B, and H1N1. Some people are at higher risk for developing flu-related complications, including women who are pregnant, children, people with asthma, the elderly and infirm, and people suffering from obesity (CDC, 2013). Additionally, areas with high population densities, such as in collegiate settings, increase the likelihood of the spread of the virus. Due to the potential seriousness and pervasiveness of the illness, reducing the spread of the flu is a significant concern in the scientific community.

A person may have the flu virus and not exhibit symptoms for 24 hours; thus, lack of immediate symptoms increases the risk of unknowingly spreading the virus. In addition to the spread of the flu virus through direct contact with an infected individual, transmission can also occur when an individual touches a surface or object infected with the virus droplets and subsequently touches his/her nose or mouth (CDC, 2013). The latter form of transmission is a particular concern in the collegiate setting. People who use public facilities should be wary of the spread of the flu virus as it is possible for the virus to spread quickly and exponentially (i.e., multiple students in one infected classroom or bathroom per day). One way that students, faculty, and other collegiate personnel can help reduce the spread of the virus and decrease their risk of contracting the virus is by simply washing their hands (CDC, 2013).

Good hand hygiene practices are taught and encouraged in health care settings, in child care settings, and in the food service industry. In 2007, Seigel, Rhinehart, Jackson, Chiarello and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee published guidelines for preventing transmission of infectious diseases. These guidelines were created specifically for use within the health care setting and noted that hand hygiene is the single most important standard precaution to prevent the spread of disease (Siegel, et al., 2007). Stephens and Ludwig (2005) examined hand sanitizing behavior of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists in a hospital. Baseline measurements of hand sanitizing behaviors were collected and then graphic feedback was presented to the participants. Participants were then trained on proper hand sanitizing procedures and graphic feedback on participant hand sanitization behavior was presented throughout the study. The results showed an increase in hand sanitizing behavior; however, the behavior decreased once the intervention ceased (Stephens & Ludwig, 2005).

Student hand washing behavior in a university setting was observed by Monk-Turner, et al. (2005). Hand washing behavior was observed inside the bathroom in full view of the patron at the restroom sink from either behind a slightly opened stall door or while the observer was at the sink. Observations revealed that women washed their hands more often than men and women used soap more often than men (Monk-Turner, et al., 2005). Another collegiate study conducted by Edwards, et al. (2002) found that individuals who know they are being observed are more likely to wash their hands. Both studies noted that the amount of hand washing is still relatively limited among college students.

Opportunities to spread infection could be decreased by increasing the hand washing behavior of college students. …

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