You may think that it’s only young children who are extremely susceptible to picking up – and spreading – bugs and viruses. After all, they have immature immune systems, work and play closely together, and often have a poor understanding of healthy hygiene practices. In contrast, you might assume that in settings where young adults congregate, such as colleges and universities, you can take a more relaxed approach to infection control.
The truth is, infection prevention measures are important in any facility, particularly at this time of year when seasonal viruses peak. Germs breed in places where people come into constant contact with each other; and lecture theatres, the Student Union and halls of residence are a haven for them. It is no surprise then, that winter infections, such as coughs, colds, flu and winter vomiting bugs, can spread like wildfire across college and university campuses.
Winter well-being brings multi-benefits
Higher education establishments not only have a responsibility to offer academic excellence, but also a duty of care to ensure the safety, and enhance the well-being, of their students and staff. One way in which they can do this is to implement an effective hand hygiene system. Time and time again, studies prove that hand hygiene is the single most effective way of reducing the spread of infection.
Investing in the best hand hygiene solutions can also bring wider benefits to a university as a whole. For example, it can result in better service delivery. Measures that help reduce the risk of virus outbreaks in the first place mean there is less disruption to lesson plans and exam timetables. Another outcome is improved academic success – in one study, 36% of students said that illness affected their academic performance. Better health can reduce the levels of absenteeism, which in turn equates to increased opportunities for learning and knowledge development. Ultimately, this makes for better grades and exam results; pushing the establishment to a higher ranking in the league tables.
Promoting hand hygiene
There is a misconception that only young children need to be taught how to wash their hands, and need reminding to do so regularly. Various studies confirm that not everybody practises hand hygiene when they should, and of those that do, not all are doing it effectively.
Clearly, there is a need to reinforce the importance of healthy hand hygiene behaviour and never more so than during the germ season. One key tactic to educate and raise awareness is to place signs and posters around campus buildings, especially in washrooms and other key germ hot spots such as shared kitchen areas. University facilities managers can download high quality and informative resources, such as posters, infographics, checklists and placement guides, from www.winter-wellness.eu.
As well as teaching the significance of healthy hand hygiene behaviour, it is important that universities are equipped with the most effective easy-to-use products. This means providing access to effective dispensers that are simple to operate. These can be wall mounted, free-standing, push-activated or touch-free and must be filled with pleasant formulations, which are proven to kill germs, but will not irritate or dry out skin.
Encouraging and maintaining good hand hygiene is crucial to improving the overall health of both students and staff. By helping them to stay well, universities can help students achieve more, and ultimately enhance their own reputation.