Can you name the last five things you touched? How about the last ten things? It's easy to lose track throughout the day of all the objects and surfaces we come in contact with. What's worse is most of these items have had hundreds, if not thousands of other people touch them as well. Keeping hands clean is an important step to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.
No matter whether you work in an office, in a hospital or at a school, by washing your hands you have the power to reduce the spread of gastrointestinal, respiratory and other infections and diseases. Best of all, hand hygiene is quick and easy.
Hand Hygiene 101
Hand hygiene focuses on cleaning hands to remove soil, dirt, germs and other pathogenic microorganisms. It's an essential part in preventing the spread of germs, especially during peak illness seasons such as back-to-school and flu season. Practicing hand health and hygiene is essential to decreasing your risk of spreading or contracting treatable illnesses. It is important to wash your hands:
- After touching surfaces
- After using the bathroom
- Before eating or cooking a meal
- Before caring for an open wound or sore
- After coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose
5 Steps to Clean Hands
Washing your hands is a great way to reduce germs, but it should also be done the right way. Make sure you and your family follow the general hand washing instructions below:
- Wet – Start by wetting your hands with warm water.
- Lather – Apply a quarter-sized amount of soap and rub hands together to form a lather.
- Scrub – Scrub the tops of your hands, in between fingers, under fingernails and the palms.
- Rinse – Rinse your hands well under warm running water.
- Dry – Dry your hands thoroughly. If you're in a public space try to use a paper towel if possible. Then use the paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the bathroom door.
Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce germs, but what if you don't have access to soap and water? Using an alcohol-based sanitizer with 60 percent alcohol can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands. When used properly, hand sanitizer can be an effective step in your hand hygiene routine in the healthcare setting.
Some studies show that healthcare providers don't practice hand hygiene as often as they should. Healthcare providers should be washing their hands more often than others, sometimes as much as 100 washes within a 12-hour shift. This number depends largely on the number of patients as well as the intensity of care. Every patient is at risk of getting an infection while being treated for something else. It's important for healthcare professionals to practice exemplary hand hygiene to protect their patients, as well as themselves.
Physicians, nurses and other healthcare workers aren't alone when it comes to hand hygiene. Patients are also responsible for reducing the spread of infections and diseases by following proper hand hygiene and encouraging their family, friends, and visitors to do the same. Together, we can all practice proper hand hygiene and do our part to prevent the spread of illness.