Hand Hygiene 101
Published: 09 March 2020
Published: 09 March 2020
With cases of COVID-19 rising globally, correct and thorough hand hygiene is now especially important.
Please scroll down for two video explanations/demonstrations.
Hand hygiene is necessary so that healthcare workers can protect themselves, their families and the clients they interact with. Thousands of people around the world die every day from infections caught while in care, and appropriate and adequate hand hygiene is a crucial prevention technique we can all utilise to reduce the spread of harmful infections and diseases (WHO 2009).
Hands are the main way pathogens are transmitted in healthcare settings (WHO 2009). People collect germs throughout the day as they touch various objects and surfaces, and may then spread these germs to others, or infect themselves (Mayo Clinic 2019). This is called the ‘chain of infection’ (Murphy 2019).
Effective hand hygiene involves washing your hands at the right time and doing it correctly (WHO 2009).
Proper hand hygiene is effective in reducing the spread of common infections such as colds, the flu and gastroenteritis. This is especially important in healthcare services as people who are receiving care are often immunocompromised due to illness or surgery (Healthdirect 2018).
Young children and older adults are also generally more vulnerable to illnesses (Better Health Channel (2015).
It is impossible to keep your hands completely free of bacteria, but handwashing helps reduce the likelihood of catching or transferring bacteria and viruses (Mayo Clinic 2019).
According to WHO (n.d.), healthcare workers should consider the following ‘5 Moments for Hand Hygiene’:
Other examples of when to wash your hands include:
Please note, these are only examples and do not include all situations.
(Healthdirect 2018; Mayo Clinic 2019; Better Health Channel 2015)
In healthcare settings, the preferred and most effective method of hand hygiene is using an alcohol-based sanitiser or rub as it is faster and better tolerated by the hands (WHO 2009). Sanitisers should contain at least 60% alcohol (CDC 2019).
Water and soap should be used if your hands are visibly dirty or soiled with blood or bodily fluids. You should also use water and soap after using the toilet (WHO 2009).Part of a complete learning course on hand hygiene, written by Cathryn Murphy RN, PhD. Complete the full module with an Ausmed subscription now, visit https://www.ausmed.com.au/cpd/courses/hand-hygiene-essentials.
(Healthdirect 2018; Mayo Clinic 2019)
To view a diagram demonstrating the handwashing process using soap and water or sanitiser, refer to the guide from WHO listed under Additional Resources.Part of a complete learning course on hand hygiene, written by Cathryn Murphy RN, PhD. Complete the full module with an Ausmed subscription now, visit https://www.ausmed.com.au/cpd/courses/hand-hygiene-essentials.
Medical gloves are not a replacement for hand hygiene. Hand hygiene should be performed before and after applying or removing gloves. (WHO 2009).
(Better Health Channel 2015; Mayo Clinic 2019)
Question 1 of 3
True or false? An alcohol-based hand sanitiser is always an acceptable alternative to soap and water.
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