Because our hands touch many surfaces in the course of a day, they are prime vehicles for transferring germs to our nose, mouth and eyes, or to other surfaces where they can find their way onto another person.
Simple handwashing is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of germs and reduce infection.
What is hand hygiene?
Hand hygiene is a term used to cover both handwashing using soap and water, and cleaning hands with waterless or alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
Why is hand hygiene important in hospitals?
In hospitals, hand hygiene is the primary measure to reduce healthcare-associated infection and the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Medical staff use the ‘7-step handwashing’ technique.
Why the 7-step handwashing technique?
Certain areas of the hands are frequently missed in handwashing. The 7-step hand washing technique has been shown to ensure that all areas of the hands are thoroughly cleaned.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) Global Patient Safety Challenge – 'Clean Care is Safer Care'
The selection of hand hygiene as the first pillar to promote the Global Patient Safety Challenge of the WHO World Alliance for Patient Safety signifies its importance in patient safety. TTSH is a partner in ‘Clean Care is Safer Care‘.
The 7-Step Handwashing Technique
What role do patients’ visitors play in the spread of infection?
If visitors are having contact with the patient in a way which corresponds with any of the Five Moments, hand hygiene should be performed.
Common ways germs are spread:
Nose, mouth or eyes to hands to others. Germs can spread to the hands by sneezing, coughing or rubbing of the eyes and then can be transferred to other family members or friends. Simply by washing your hands, you can help prevent such illnesses as the common cold or eye infections.
How germs are transmitted
Hands to food
Germs are transmitted from unclean hands to food by an infected food handler whose hands were not properly cleaned after a toilet trip. The germs are then passed to those who eat the food. This is easily prevented by always washing your hands after using the toilet and before preparing food items.
Food to hands to food
Germs are transmitted from raw foods, such as chicken, to hands while preparing a meal. The germs on the hands are then transferred to other uncooked foods, such as salad or cut fruits. Cooking the raw food kills the initial germs, but the salad or cut fruit remains contaminated.
Animals to people
Wash your hands after patting animals or touching any surfaces they come into contact with.
Hand hygiene refers to removing or killing micro-organisms (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 healthcare, hand hygiene is used to eliminate transient micro-organisms (germs) that have been picked up through contact with patients, contaminated equipment or the environment. Hand hygiene may be performed whether by using soap and running water, or with alchohol-based hand rubs. The 7-step technique is recommended for both handwashing and alchohol-based rubs.
The following are examples of the types of germs that can be spread by the hands in a healthcare setting:
- Staphylococcus aureus (including MRSA)
- Streptococcus pyogenes (Group A Strep)
- Vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE)
- Clostridium difficle