Good hand hygiene is one of the most effective tools in our battle against germs. Be Well spoke with Gwen Rogers, RN, MS, CIC, Director of Maine Medical Center's Department of Epidemiology and Infection Control, about the importance of clean hands.
Why is good hand hygiene necessary?
It's the number one way to prevent the spread of infection from person to person or from environment to person.
From environment to person?
Yes. The environment can become contaminated and if we don't wash our hands after we touch something - a doorknob or a table - we can spread the contamination.
If we know that good hand hygiene prevents the
spread of germs, why doesn't everybody wash?
People are very busy, and perhaps being task-oriented with so many things to get done, we are focused on those things. It's also a bit like falling out of the habit of flossing our teeth. If it's not part of a regular daily routine, you might forget. Hand hygiene is the same way.
What is the proper way to clean your hands?
There are two ways to clean your hands. One is with soap and water; the other is with an alcohol-based, waterless cleaner. Both are effective for the majority of bacteria and viruses. Obviously, when using soap and water you need to stay in one place for at least 15 seconds while you wash. The nice thing about the waterless gel product is that you can grab a dollop as you walk by and use it as you're walking.
Proper hand washing takes 15 seconds?
Ten to 15 seconds is the minimum you should spend - and from research studies we know that people spend only four. You need to gauge 15 seconds for yourself - singing the birthday song or Yankee Doodle Dandy, for example. Fifteen seconds is longer than you think it is.
What about the gel?
Rub it into your hands until dry, making sure you get the fingernails, nail beds, thumbs, and between fingers.
When should you clean your hands?
Wash or gel before eating or preparing food, after using the bathroom, after handling money, before and after spending time with someone who is ill, and whenever your hands look dirty.
Take these tips in hand, teach them to your family, and have a healthier flu season!