Germ-ridden New Zealanders who fail to perform the basic hygiene practice of washing hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing noses are getting sick more often and staying that way for longer, according to a recent survey.
The poll shows more than half of the population are failing in basic cleanliness - with men worse than women.
Every year once in five New Zealanders come down with influenza, and 400 people die from problems related to the virus.
The survey, by Dettol, found that teaching children to wash their hands is still the most popular way for parents to help stop their youngsters from picking up cold and flu bugs at school.
However Dettol brand manager Narissa Harvey said some parents need to take heed of their own advice.
"The fact that nearly half of Kiwis don't wash their hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing their noses shows we can greatly reduce our chances of catching cold and flu germs by making simple changes to our hygiene habits."
Women are more than twice as likely to wash hands than men and they are also twice as likely to clean and disinfect the home to help in recovering from colds and the flu.
Even though a third of New Zealanders came down with a cold or the flu at least twice last year, the survey found over half of us soldiered on and took no time off work to recover.
There is bright news for the older generation who tend to get fewer colds because they build up immunity to the common strands of the virus.
The survey found:
* 59 per cent of women wash their hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing their noses, compared to 42 per cent of men
* 37.3 per cent of parents believe that teaching children to wash their hands is the best way to stop them picking up infections at school
* 32 per cent of New Zealanders came down with a cold or the flu at least twice last year
* 55.8 per cent of New Zealanders took no time off work last year to recover from a cold or the flu
* 70 per cent of those aged 18-34 years, had taken at least one day off work in the last year due to having a cold or the flu
* women are almost three times more likely to use disinfecting cleaning products than men to avoid catching a cold.
- APNZBy Rebecca Quilliam