Hand Hygiene

Olena Komarcheva RN, MSc/ Infection Control Practitioner
09 October, 2016

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Everyone has germs. Our bodies are covered with germs that help us stay healthy. We can also pick up germs from contact with other people or objects in our surroundings.  People usually think that germs are spread only through the air, however the fact is that germs are most easily spread through hand contact.

The hands are very efficient at picking up germs. But you don’t get infections just by having germs on your hands (unless you have a cut or scrape). Germs enter the body through the mucous membranes, the pink, moist linings of your eyes, nose and mouth. When you touch your eyes, nose or mouth, any germs that are on your hands can be transferred to the body and can cause an infection (e.g. colds, tummy bugs and more serious illness)

One of the best ways to stop the spread of germs is to wash OR decontaminate your hands often.

Why does washing your hands with soap and water work?

  • Soap suspends the dirt and skin oils that trap bacteria
  • Washing motion helps pull dirt and oils free from the skin
  • Warm running water washes away suspended dirt and oils
  • Additional friction from wiping hands removes more germs

Decontaminating hands reduces the amount of germs present on hands through the use of special alcohol based preparations, in the form of solutions, gels or foams. 

  • Alcohol based preparations have an advantage, as you can carry a bottle of it in your pocket or bag.
  • They are less drying to your skin

While alcohol based preparations reduce the germs on your hands, they cannot remove visible soil or contamination.  It is always important to WASH hands with soap and water any time they are visibly dirty.

When to perform hand hygiene?

  • Before eating or preparing food
  • After using the toilet (or helping a child use the toilet)
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing (or assisting your child)
  • After handling garbage or trash
  • After touching pets or animals
  • After touching objects that are shared with others
  • Before handling contact lenses

How to wash your hands?

  • Wet your hands before applying soap so the soap doesn’t get rinsed off.
  • Apply plain soap. Plain soap is just as effective as antibacterial soap in preventing infections and does not lead to antibiotic resistance.
  • Soap up for 20 seconds.
  • Wash your palms, between your fingers, backs, wrists, thumbs and fingertips and nails.
  • Rinse for 10 seconds or until all the soap is gone.
  • Dry your hands, preferably with a clean disposable towel.
  • Use the towel to turn off the taps and let yourself out the washroom door. (This prevents recontamination)






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