Everyday hand washing is one of the most effective measures to prevent the spread of Healthcare-Associated Infections
Healthcare-associated infections (HCAIs) affect patient safety, increase healthcare costs and take up valuable time. Improving hand hygiene performance is one of the most effective ways to lower the risk of outbreaks.
The winter months traditionally see an increase in viral illnesses – from the common cold and influenza, to norovirus, more commonly known as the winter vomiting bug, these debilitating infections are highly contagious.
The implications of outbreaks of these and other so-called superbugs in healthcare settings are wide-ranging – from danger to patients in already vulnerable positions, to the disruption to normal services, such as the enforced closure of hospital wards.
Hand hygiene is one of the most preventative ways to reduce the spread of germs, therefore it is paramount that hand hygiene best practice is encouraged in both healthcare workers, visitors and patients, not only during cold and flu season but all year round. More than 80% of illnesses can be transmitted by the hands1, however research shows that 25% of people don’t wash their hands after using the washroom2, while a further 46% don’t wash long enough to be effective3. These startling facts highlight how important hand hygiene is and the need for education and awareness on why and when to wash or sanitise your hands.
The first line of defence Hand washing is the first line of defence against the spread of infection. The process of washing hands should take at least 20 seconds, making sure that the hands are washed correctly – wet hands with water, apply enough soap to cover all surfaces, rub palm to palm and carefully scrub fingers, back and front of hands and each thumb. Rinse with water and gently dry with a clean paper towel.
Hand sanitising is ideal when water and soap is not available, or as an additional layer of protection. Using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, whether foam, gel or wipes, significantly reduces the spread of germs.
The process of sanitising hands should take at least 15 seconds to be effective – apply a palm full of hand sanitiser, covering all surfaces, rub the sanitiser into palms, fingers, back and front of hands and thumbs, continuing to rub hands together until they are dry.
Washing or sanitising hands is most crucial after using the washroom, before preparing food, before eating and after sneezing or coughing. Hands should be washed or sanitised after touching anything that may carry germs, such as ward beds and medical equipment, handrails and other public areas.
Mike Sullivan, managing director of GOJO Industries-Europe, said, “The simple act of hand washing can make a huge difference to health, helping to prevent the spread of germs and reduce the chances of getting sick in the first place – ensuring well-being during the colder months.
“Viruses thrive in closed environments where people come into constant contact with each other – and healthcare facilities, such as hospitals and GP surgeries, are a haven for them. With a constant flow of patients, visitors and staff; these are places where healthy personal hygiene practices are a vital weapon in the fight against the spread of germs.”