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World Hand Hygiene Day

Soapy hands
This Friday is World Hand Hygiene Day! What better time to educate on the importance of hand washing and reducing antibiotic resistance. Hand hygiene is a great way to prevent infections. It is the first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious infections such as meningitis, the flu, and most types of infectious diarrhea. It’s such an easy way to help prevent infection, yet many still do not wash their hands. While it’s extremely important for healthcare workers to maintain good hand hygiene, it’s also important for the patients in hospitals and you at home.
Most germs that cause serious infections are spread by people’s actions. Keeping hands clean through proper hand hygiene is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. Many diseases are spread simply because of a lack of proper washing with soap, and clean running water. Due to the high volume of infectious germs in hospitals, nurses and healthcare employees have to be especially vigilant in their hand washing procedures otherwise every patient in the hospital is at risk of getting an infection while they are being treated for something else.
Proper hygiene reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, as well as diarrheal infections, and preventing sickness will in turn reduce the amount of antibiotics people use and the likelihood that antibiotic resistance will develop. Antibiotics are often prescribed unnecessarily for these health issues and we want the antibiotics to work when they are truly in need. Hand washing can also prevent people from getting sick with the germs that are already resistant to antibiotics and that are difficult to treat.
Healthcare providers should clean their hands before and after every patient contact to protect themselves as well as their patients from infections. They should also clean in between different procedures so to not spread germs. Patients should clean their hands frequently and ask their visitors to do so as well. People often forget to wash their hands after they use the restroom and then touch doorknobs, light switches, handrails, table tops, phones, food, and other objects. Germs from unwashed hands can get into foods and drinks and can often multiply in these environments and then are ingested and make people sick. Germs can be transferred to individuals’ hands after touching an object and they then touch their eyes, nose, and mouth without realizing it and the germs have entered the body. Always wash your hands:
  • Before, during, and after preparing food

  • Before eating food

  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick

  • Before and after treating a cut or wound

  • After using the toilet

  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet

  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

  • After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste

  • After handling pet food or pet treats

  • After touching garbage

The proper way to clean your hands is to:

  • Wet your hands with clean, running water and apply soap.

  • Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, wrists, and under your nails.

  • Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.

  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol to clean hands.

  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer kills most of the bad germs that make you sick and is the preferred way to clean your hands in healthcare settings unless visibly dirty or before or after a procedure.

  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizer does not eliminate all types of germs such as C. diff, a common healthcare-associated infection that causes severe diarrhea. Patients with C. diff should wash their hands with soap and water and make sure their healthcare providers always wear gloves when caring for them.

  • When using Alcohol-based hand sanitizer, put product on hands and rub together covering backs of hands and in between fingers. Continue covering all surfaces until hands are dry. This should take around 20 seconds.

Hand hygiene is all about education. Know that it's ok to ask your nurse and family members about hand hygiene and remind them to wash regularly. You never know when you might prevent that next big infection!


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