Nearly half of all primary school pupils in Ireland have high levels of bacteria on their hands. That’s according to the results of a new nationwide survey conducted by washroom hygiene suppliers Initial. The company’s Hygiene Angels tour in May visited eight schools in Cavan, Dublin, Waterford and Kerry, where they swabbed 97 children’s hands.
Of these, 41 per cent were found to have high levels of bacteria, posing a rusk of cross-contamination with potentially harmful bugs like salmonella. The rest of the children swabbed had a normal level of bacteria on their hands, with low levels of bacteria noted on the hands of just one per cent of pupils.
All of those swabbed were retested after being shown how to wash their hands properly for at least 20 seconds, which Initial says resulted in a 100 per cent rate of low bacteria detection. Initial is now urging parents and schools to show children how to wash their hands properly to prevent the spread of illness as the new school term starts.
Throughout the school tour, the Hygiene Angels team demonstrated the high levels of bacteria on hands, desks, and personal items by swabbing the surfaces. Using UV glow gel and a UV torch, the germ-busting team also showed kids how germs can lurk on fingers and nails even when they look clean.
“Hygiene is the key to controlling the spread of infection,” said Dr Colm Moore of Initial.“The high levels of bacteria recorded on some children’s hands is worrying, as they are at a higher risk of both contracting an illness and passing bacteria onto other children.
“Hand-washing in general can reduce bacteria by 80 per cent, however, based on the results of this survey, up to 93 per cent of bacteria were removed through good hand-washing methods. It is not enough to wash hands when they are visibly dirty.
Dr Moore added that “interestingly, the children with the lowest levels of bacteria on their hands had a hand sanitiser installed in their classroom and were generally found to be using it and therefore at a lower risk of contracting an illness or passing bacteria on to others.”