Germaphobe nation: People washing hands so much during COVID it’s ruining their skin

NEW YORK — With mask-wearing and social distancing at the top of everyone’s minds, the coronavirus pandemic has taken a surprising toll on a somewhat unexpected place: the hands of Americans. According to a new survey, the average American washes their hands 10 times per day since the pandemic began. They also sanitize them an additional eight times each day.

With that in mind, the OnePoll survey of 2,000 Americans reveals more than half (51%) say their digits are feeling drier than ever. Nearly three in 10 report their hands are flaky from increased hand-washing and sanitizing. Over one in five (22%) say their hands have even bled from all the cleaning.

COVID hand washing hygiene

Commissioned by Muse Health, the study also examined the new norms for cleaning hands after a variety of activities.

Washing hands key to ending pandemic

Nearly six in 10 people (57%) say they only use hand sanitizer after touching common surfaces, such as door handles, turnstiles, car doors, and shopping carts. On the other hand, 22 percent say they’re using hand sanitizer after touching any surface or object – in public or not.

It’s perhaps unsurprising then that six in 10 admit to panicking when they leave home without hand sanitizer. Forty-four percent of respondents say the need to stay clean has even taken a toll on their relationships. Those Americans agree concerns about spreading germs has made them less likely to hold hands with their romantic partner.

“While it might feel like it’s become second-nature by now, continuing to be vigilant about keeping hands clean across a variety of contexts – from home to work to the grocery store and beyond – will be imperative to curtailing the pandemic this cold and flu season,” says Bruce Albert, Chief Science Officer of Muse Health, in a statement.

The ‘germaphobe’ society?

With the threat of COVID seemingly lurking around every corner, eight in 10 respondents agree that they are washing their hands more frequently this year than ever before. Unsurprisingly, 64 percent of respondents add 2020 has turned them into “a bit of a germaphobe.” About seven in 10 women report that constant hand-washing and sanitizing has become second nature during the pandemic. Despite a reputation for being less hygienic, just over eight in 10 men said the same thing.

COVID hand washing hygiene

The survey finds guys are actually more likely to report that their hands are drier as a result of the increased hand-washing. Yet only 64 percent of all respondents said that they know which active and inactive ingredients to look for in a hand sanitizer to help prevent dryness.

“Staying protected is more important this cold and flu season than ever before, but many alcohol-based sanitizers can wreak havoc on your hands if you’re not careful,” Albert adds.

“Looking for a sanitizer with moisturizing agents like vitamin e, lime oil or glycerin will help to protect your hands from getting extra dry and chapped during the winter season in which they’re already vulnerable to the effects of the colder weather.”

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About the Author

Chris Melore

Chris Melore has been a writer, researcher, editor, and producer in the New York-area since 2006. He won a local Emmy award for his work in sports television in 2011.

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