A survey by Public Health Wales has found that men in Wales are less likely than women to think hand washing is necessary.

One in five men in Wales admitted they don’t wash their hands after going to the toilet. Men were also more likely than women to report washing their hands for less than 20 seconds.

In the representative survey of over a thousand adults in Wales there was particularly low awareness of the importance of hand washing after coming back from a public place, with only 41 per cent of men and 50 per cent of women agreeing that it was necessary.

The YouGov survey commissioned by Public Health Wales also found people had a lack of awareness about the importance of hand washing after meeting people outside their household, with only 38 per cent of men and 43 per cent of women thinking it was necessary.

Only around a half of Welsh adults said they always or often wash their hands after sneezing or blowing their nose.

Public health experts are highlighting the importance of hand hygiene to stay well this winter. Good hand washing is one of the most effective actions we can all take to reduce the spread of infections, like flu, norovirus and Covid-19. A typical person’s hands contain millions of microbes, most are harmless but some may be infection-causing bacteria.

To reduce the risk of spreading germs, it’s recommended to wash hands for at least 30 seconds with soap and water at key times of the day, including before eating, after using the toilet, after blowing your nose, after travelling on public transport and when arriving home after being in a public place. If handwashing facilities are unavailable, an alcohol based hand gel can also be effective against viruses (although it does not work for noroviruses).

To highlight the importance of hand hygiene, a demonstration event will take place today (Tuesday, November 28) at Ysgol Gyfun Gwyr in Swansea at 11 am. Young people will learn that “clean” hands may not be as clean as they look. The session will use a germ-simulating gel and UV light to show how germs can easily travel around a group of people through hand to hand contact. There will also be a demonstration on good hand washing technique.

Other measures to protect against the spread of infection this winter are to stay at home if you are unwell and ensure you and your family are up to date with their winter vaccinations.

Dr. Giri Shankar, Director of Health Protection for Public Health Wales said:

“It’s important to continue the good hygiene practices that we learnt during the Covid pandemic. No-one likes to be ill, especially during the festive season. Taking a few simple steps to protect yourself and your loved ones against infection can really make all the difference and increase your chances of staying well this winter.”