Ever since you were born, people have been telling you to wash your hands. Hand washing, whether or not you're in the middle of cold and flu season, reduces the surprising amount of contamination we come into contact everyday. Yet, as with most things, just because we know something to be healthy for us doesn't always mean we'll do it. Enter: PRIMIT. According to a new study, PRIMIT can help reduce the risk of flu infection by around 14 percent.

So, what is PRIMIT? It's an online program that promotes hand washing, which ultimately helps reduce the spread of cold and flu viruses within families, as well as gastrointestinal diseases. PRIMIT users have four weekly sessions to learn about simple techniques they can use to stay healthy. The program can be used during normal flu season and in the event of a flu pandemic.

The program, too, has been shown to reduce the number of doctor appointments and antibiotic prescriptions family members need, said Dr. Paul Little, study author and professor at the University of Southampton in the UK. He describes it as a simple and cheap internet program capable of stopping the spread of infection.

Little's study recruited and divided 20,000 people aged 18 and above into two groups; half used PRIMIT, while the other half served as the control. By the end of the study (16 weeks), 51 percent of program users contracted at least one respiratory infection compared to 59 percent of the people who got the same respiratory infection in the control group. Those who used PRIMIT had a 20 percent lower risk of catching a flu-like illness, with 10 to 15 percent fewer doctor appointments and drug prescriptions.

"Influenza is only one of the many infectious diseases that can affect populations. An even more important point to take from this study is therefore the promotion of hand washing as a generic routine to manage transfer of infections," said Dr. Chris van Weel, a professor at Australian National University in Canberra.

Today, establishments from restaurants, to hospitals and public bathrooms publicize a hand washing policy. PRIMIT may be what helps families understand the importance of adopting a policy of their own, especially outside of flu season.

Source: Little P, et al. An internet-delivered handwashing intervention to modify influenza-like illness and respiratory infection transmission (PRIMIT): a primary care randomised trial. The Lancet. 2015.