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Hand Hygiene

Basic Hand Hygiene And Its Significance

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, healthcare professionals, as well as world healthcare officials have put a lot of emphasis on daily hygiene and proper hand washing.

Hand hygiene is the simplest and most effective way to avoid the spread of infections. Germs can linger on to your unwashed hands and when you touch things around you, they can transfer on to them, which is what leads to the spread of diseases and infections. 

To prevent that from happening, you should take extra care and understand the importance of hand hygiene. In this article, we will explain the importance of hand hygiene, along with covering the proper hand washing techniques.

Hand Hygiene: What is it?

Hand hygiene is a term used to describe the process of cleaning/cleansing hands. According to the CDC, the below-mentioned activities lie under hand hygiene:

  • Handwashing: Washing your hands with soap or hand wash

  • Hand cleansing: Refers to cleaning your hands using a sanitizer

  • Surgical antisepsis: Antiseptic hand wash or hand rub performed by surgical personnel.

  • Hand antisepsis: Refer to antiseptic hand wash or rub

Adhering to a proper hand washing routine can significantly reduce the spread of diseases and infection.

Significance of Hand Washing

Handwashing is one of the most important everyday practices. It has been ranked as one of the most effective and affordable public health interventions by world health officials. According to research conducted in London, handwashing can prevent up to a million deaths per year. 80% of the diseases and infections are spread by hands. Washing your hands can significantly reduce the spread of diseases like influenza, hepatitis A, amebiasis, campylobacteriosis, and others. 

According to the CDC, taking care of your hand health can:

  • Reduce the spread of diarrhea by 23%-40%
  • Reduce the spread of respiratory illnesses like cold and influenza by 16%-21%
  • Reduce the spread of diarrheal illness in people with weak immune systems by 58%

CDC Guidelines For Hand Hygiene

The Center for Disease Control has set some handwashing guidelines that should be followed by healthcare providers and practitioners. These universal standard precautions ensure the safety of patients that are being treated by said practitioners and physicians.

The CDC handwashing guidelines are as follows:

A healthcare provider is required to wash their hands with soap after the following clinical occurrences:

  • Right before and after touching a patient
  • Before picking up a medical device or instrument or performing an aseptic task
  • After coming in contact with blood or other bodily fluids
  • After being in a contaminated area
  • Immediately after glove removal 

And here are some guidelines for healthcare facilities:

  • They should ensure all the health personnel are adhering to the hand hygiene guidelines, set in place by CDC.
  • Make sure all the staff members and doctors are washing their hands with soap and water when their hands are visibly dirty.
  • Make sure all necessary supplies needed for handwashing are available in all areas where patient care is being delivered.

11 Steps to Washing Your Hands Properly

The recommended minimum amount of times you should wash your hands is five times a day. It can be more if you are someone who works at a healthcare facility. There is a defined handwashing procedure, that’ll make sure your hand is completely clean. It is an 11 step procedure recommended by many doctors and healthcare providers.

Step # 1: Wet your hands with warm water. The water should not be too warm, that it ends up damaging your skin.

Step # 2: Apply a sufficient amount of soap or hand wash  (it is recommended to use the one with a certain amount of alcohol in it)

Step # 3: Lather the soap or hand wash by rubbing your hand palm to palm.

Step # 4: Rub in between and around your fingers. Make sure you reach every inner corner of your hands.

Step # 5: Rub the back of each hand with the palm of the other hand.

Step # 6: Rub the finger of each hand on the palm of the other hand.

Step #7: Rub each thumb clasped in the opposite hand.

Step # 8: Keep rubbing for a minute or 90 seconds then wash your hands under warm running water.

Step # 9: Pat your hands dry with a tissue or paper towel.

Step # 10: Turn the water off using the paper towel to ensure no germs are transmitted back to your hands.

Step # 11: You now have perfectly clean hands.

When to Wash Your Hands?

You should look after your hand hygiene as frequently as possible but here are some key times you should wash your hands:

  • Before and after eating food
  • Before, during, and after cooking food
  • Before and after taking care of someone who’s sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After changing the diapers or cleaning up after your kids
  • After using the toilet
  • After touching an animal, animal food, or animal waste
  • After throwing out the garbage
  • After cleaning
  • After blowing your nose or coughing

Indications for Hand Hygiene During Patient Care

There are a few indications defined by the CDC for hand hygiene during patient care:

  • Wash your hands with antibacterial soap when they are visibly dirty or contaminated with proteinaceous material.
  • If your hands are visibly soiled, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer for frequent decontamination of the hands.
  • Wash your hand or decontaminate them with alcohol wipes or sanitizer after touching a patient.
  • Wash your hands before wearing gloves when inserting a central intravascular catheter.
  • Decontaminate your hands with alcohol wipes or sanitizer before inserting any invasive devices in the body like the urinary catheters.
  • Wash your hands before and after touching the patient’s skin.
  • Wash your hands after coming in contact with any bodily fluids.
  • Wash your hands after removing gloves.

    Final Note:

    Taking care of your hand hygiene should be the important thing for you. It prevents the spread of many diseases and in general, is part of a healthy lifestyle. There are a number of diseases out there that can be transmitted through hands. Our expert physicians adhere to all the hand hygiene guidelines set in place by the CDC and they make sure they give their patients safe and quality care by keeping themselves and the place they work at clean.

    Frequently Asked Questions:

    What is the primary purpose of appropriate hand hygiene?

    The primary purpose is to prevent the spread of infections by eliminating or reducing the presence of harmful microorganisms on the hands.

    How often should you wash your hands?

    It is recommended to wash your hands regularly, especially:
    Before and after eating
    After using the restroom
    After coughing or sneezing

    How long should you wash your hands?

    Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds to ensure thorough cleaning.

    Where are you allowed to wash your hands?

    You can wash your hands in designated handwashing facilities, including bathrooms and kitchen areas.

    When should healthcare workers wash their hands?

    Healthcare workers should wash their hands:
    Before and after patient contact
    Before and after wearing gloves
    After handling potentially infectious materials

    How many seconds do you perform hand hygiene?

    Hand hygiene, including washing with soap and water or using hand sanitizer, should be performed for at least 20 seconds.

    – Disclaimer –
    This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

    Medically Reviewed

    Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 10/11/2021

    Learn more about our editorial process.

    • About The Author

      Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

      Board Certified Primary Care Physician

    Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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