What is Hand Hygiene?

Effective Hand Hygiene is the single most important strategy in preventing health care associated infections.

Hand Hygiene

Is a general term referring to any action of hand cleansing.
Washing hands with the use of a water and soap or a soap solution, either non-antimicrobial or antimicrobial
Applying a waterless antimicrobial hand rub to the surface of the hands (e.g. alcohol-based hand rub).
When performed correctly, hand hygiene results in a reduction of microorganisms on hands.

Hand hygiene practices have been universally poor among health care workers Why:

• Heavy workloads – the busier you are the less likely you are to wash your hands
• Time consuming – there just isn’t enough time to wash your hands as often as you need to if using the traditional Hand Hygiene techniques
• Hands don’t appear dirty – Bugs are there even if you can’t see them
• Problems with skin irritation – frequent washing with soap and water removes skin lipids, and in some health care workers causes dryness, skin irritation and damaged skin
• Sinks poorly located – if it’s hard to get to a sink you are less likely to use it.

Indications for Hand Hygiene

Use an alcohol based hand rub for all clinical situations where hands are visibly clean.Wash with soap and water when visibly dirty or contaminated with proteinaceous material, or visibly soiled with blood or other body fluids, or if exposure to potential spore forming organisms is strongly suspected or proven, or after using the bathroom.

How Do I Hand Hygiene?

The WHO have developed posters on How to Hand Rub and How to Handwash. Click on either poster to view full size version.

When to wash your hands  

How to wash your hands  

  • Using soap and water
  • Using alcohol-based hand rubs


Hand hygiene in healthcare settings  


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