Apply oomph when washing hands

For most people, hand washing is second nature: a little soap, a little water, and voila, they’re clean. Not so fast.

Fourteen students in Tim Harvey’s Principles of Health Promotion class are holding hand-washing demonstrations across campus to prove that washed hands are not necessarily clean hands.

The demos are part of a wellness initiative the students have devised to alert the college community to H1N1; specifically, how to prevent it, recognize it and treat it. Since frequent hand washing is the first step in stopping the spread of H1N1 and many other illnesses, the students decided to emphasize the need for thorough hand washing as part of their overall plan.

First, though, they had to illustrate exactly what’s left behind after a casual hand washing. With stations set up around campus, Harvey’s students gave volunteers a lotion to lather on their hands and then asked them to wash as they normally would. Then the volunteers were asked to place their hands under a black light to reveal any residue from the lotion, which would indicate the presence of germs and pathogens.

“It was pretty amazing; more times than not there was a residue, usually around the thumb and forefinger or in the nailbeds,” Harvey said. “We’ve had 200 to 300 people try this so far and I think they have seen firsthand the importance of washing your hands well.”

The demonstrations will continue on campus at various sites during the next couple weeks. Harvey’s students also designed posters with slogans and catch phrases about dealing with H1N1, and wrote public service announcements, which are being delivered at various athletic contests on campus.

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