The CDC (Center for Disease Control) says that the number one way to prevent the spread of infection is by practicing good hand hygiene, but what does that mean to you and me? Good hand hygiene, in a sense, has been a topic of discussion since we were all children. Remember your mom or dad asking you to go wash your hands before dinner? I sure do. They also said to wash your hands when you’re finished in the restroom, after playing outside, or even after petting or playing ball with your best friend Maxx! Back then I would think “what’s her problem with my hands”? Oddly enough she was on to something! This early habit plays a big part in not only maintaining your own healthy lifestyle, but if you are in the healthcare industry it can be vital in reduction of HAIs (Healthcare Acquired Infections).
HAI’s are a major contributing factor to healthcare costs. Every year, thousands of HAI cases are reported by our nation’s hospitals. Not only that, but it has been reported that approximately 99,000 people die because of those infections each year. For even more statistics on the costs of HAIs, check out this complete infographic from Gojo, The-True-Cost-of-HAIs. The good news is there are things we can do to reduce and mitigate these risks.
Where do we start? We start with washing our hands correctly! What does a good hand washing look like? A good hand washing starts with warm water and soap. Once your hands are rinsed place a generous amount of soap on your hands and begin scrubbing. Scrub for at least 20 seconds making sure you get the palms and back of your hands as well as in between the fingers. It’s just that simple.
People ask all the time “do I need an antimicrobial soap to make sure my hands are clean” and my answer to that question is NO. First, those antimicrobial agents are not good for the environment. They can get into our water system and wreak havoc on the ecosystem. I’ve spoken to many infection prevention specialists who say that warm water, soap and time are the best way to protect someone from HAI’s. BUT… You must do it correctly and scrub for a minimum of 20 seconds. It is the time and the hand-to-hand friction together with the lubrication of the soap and water that removes the “bugs”. Once you have washed completely be sure to dry thoroughly with a paper towel. To encourage hand washing, Nichols offers several tools from simple solutions such as step-by-step posters and reminder mirror clings for restrooms, to quite robust technology solutions such as Gojo’s SMARTLINK program.
There is nothing like a good hand washing to destroy the bugs, but when soap and water are not available to you a hand sanitizer will work just fine. The one thing to remember about using hand sanitizers is the amount used and dwell time. You must use enough sanitizer to saturate your hands. Rub your hands together in a similar fashion to washing your hands with soap and water. Rub together for 10-20 seconds and wait! Do not dry your hands! Allow the sanitizer to evaporate from your hands. The reason for this is dwell time. Like a chemical cleaner, sanitizer needs to be on the hands long enough for the alcohol to kill the bugs.
Hand washing. It’s one of the most important things you can do to help reduce the spread of hospital acquired infections. Practice a few times and get into the habit of good hand washing. It could LITERALLY save someone’s life!