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Information about Hand Hygiene

WHO SAVE LIVES: Clean care for all – it's in your hands

Dear colleagues,
I am pleased to bring you the latest update on the May 5, 2019 campaign.

 
WHO calls on everyone to be inspired by the global movement to achieve universal health coverage (UHC), i.e. achieving better health and well-being for all people at all ages, including financial risk protection, access to quality essential health care services and access to safe, effective, quality and affordable essential medicines and vaccines for all. Infection Prevention and Control, including hand hygiene, is critical to achieve UHC as it is a practical and evidence-based approach with demonstrated impact on quality of care and patient safety across all levels of the health system. 
 
Our campaign webpage has been updated almost on daily basis so please bookmark and stay tuned.

Canadian Patient Safety Institute -Clean Care Conversations

 

 

 

 

STOP! Clean Your Hands Day take place on Monday May 6, 2019. This year's theme is: Clean Care Conversations


The Rationale for Hand Hygiene

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Why is hand hygiene important?

Hand hygiene refers to removing or killing microorganisms (germs) on the hands. When performed correctly, hand hygiene is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and infections. In health care, hand hygiene is used to eliminate transient microorganisms that have been picked up via contact with patients, contaminated equipment or the environment. Hand hygiene may be performed either by using soap and running water, or with alcohol-based hand rubs.

When should hand hygiene be performed?

In health care, hand hygiene is required:

  • Before and after contact with any patient/resident, their body substances or items contaminated by them
  • Between different procedures on the same patient/resident
  • Before and after performing invasive procedures
  • Before preparing, handling, serving or eating food or feeding a patient/resident
  • After assisting patients/residents with personal care (e.g. assisting patient to blow nose, toileting or doing wound care)
  • Before putting on and after taking off gloves
  • After performing personal functions (e.g. using the toilet, blowing your nose)
  • When hands come into contact with secretions, excretions, blood and body fluids (use soap and running water whenever hands are visibly soiled)

When should soap and water be used?

The mechanical action of washing, rinsing and drying removes transient bacteria present on the hands. Hand washing with soap and running water must be performed whenever hands are visibly soiled.

Any type of plain soap may be used. However, bar soaps are not acceptable in health care settings except for single patient/resident personal use. If used, bar soap should be kept in a self draining holder that is cleaned thoroughly before new bars are put out. Liquid soap containers should be used until empty and then discarded. Soap containers must not be topped up, as there is a risk of contamination of residual soap. Antibacterial soaps may be used in critical care areas such as ICU, or in other areas where invasive procedures are performed.

When should alcohol-based hand rubs be used?

Alcohol-based hand rubs/gels/rinses are the preferred method for decontaminating hands, provided they contain more than 60% alcohol. They are widely used in health care settings, or in situations where running water is not available. Using alcohol-based hand rub is better than washing hands (even with an antibacterial soap) when hands are not visibly soiled.

Won't frequent hand hygiene dry my skin?

Intact skin is the first line of defence against microorganisms, hence it is important to maintain good skin care. To prevent chafing, wet your hands before applying soap and use a mild lotion soap with warm water; pat rather than rub hands dry; and apply lotion liberally and frequently. Skin lotions should be chosen that will not interfere with glove integrity.

Most alcohol-based hand rubs contain emollients to reduce the incidence of skin irritation. Frequen use of alcohol-based hand rub actually lessens the incidence of skin breakdown, as it does not subject hands to the friction and abrasion involved in hand washing and drying hands.

If an individual develops compromised skin integrity, he/she should be referred to Occupational Health for assessment.

Hand Hygiene Procedures

How do I use soap and water?

Good hand hygiene technique is easy to learn. Follow these five simple steps to keeping hands clean:

  • Remove hand and arm jewellery and wet your hands with warm (not hot) running water.
  • Add soap, and then rub your hands together, making a soapy lather. Do this for at least 15 seconds, being careful not to wash the lather away. Wash the front and back of your hands, as well as between your fingers and under your nails.
  • Rinse your hands well under warm running water, using a rubbing motion.
  • Wipe and dry hands gently with paper towel. Rubbing vigorously with paper towels can damage the skin.
  • Turn off tap using paper towel so that you do not recontaminate your hands.
  • Hand Hygiene E-learning Tool -Infection Prevention and Control Canada and Discovery Campus offer an online hand hygiene education module for healthcare workers and volunteers

​ How do I use alcohol-based hand rubs?

Alcohol-based hand rubs should only be used if no visible dirt is present on the hands.