Hand Washing for Infection Control

Hand Washing is the single most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of illness, infection and food-borne illness! Although there are different procedures for proper hand washing, there are distinct steps that must not be ignored when attempting to prevent the spread of germs and infections. These steps include: wetting hands with warm running water, putting soap in the palm of your hand, rubbing hands together to create a lather for up to 20 seconds (rub the front and back of hands, between fingers and under nails), rinsing hands under warm running water, drying hands thoroughly with a paper towel or a clean towel, and using a paper towel to turn off the water faucet and to open the door when exiting the room. Liquid soap is usually recommended over bar soap because germs can grow on bar soap and therefore spread from person to person. Antibacterial soap is recommended in healthcare settings, but should be left on the hands for a full two minutes to have an effect on bacteria. Using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol) may be used if soap and water are not available, but it is good practice to wash hands with soap and water between the use of hand sanitizers. In the health care setting, care givers should wash their hands, for example, between care of patients, dressing changes, passing medication, … and the list goes on. The use of gloves is a must if the care giver is coming in contact with any body fluids. Gloves should only be used for one task and one patient and then removed. Gloves do not take the place of hand washing! Keep in mind that you always have the right to ask the care giver to wash their hands before providing care to you or your loved one.