Have you ever thought about how much work your hands actually do during the day, what they touch or even what they pick up along the way? Keeping our hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs, such as norovirus onto others.
Hand Hygiene plays one of the most important roles in Infection Prevention. Infection Prevention and Control measures aim to ensure the protection of those who might be vulnerable to acquiring an infection both in the general community and while receiving care due to health problems, in a range of settings.1
Since a lot of infections are spread by touch, washing your hands & then using an alcohol-based hand rub before touching another person is one of the best ways to help stop the spread of these infections. For procedures, PPE equipment should be worn once Hand Hygiene steps have been followed.
Wash your hands with a liquid soap at the following times:
- When your hands are visibly dirty or contaminated with proteinaceous material, blood or other body fluids.
- At the beginning and end of each session.
- When washing your hands, use sinks dedicated for hand washing purposes that are fitted with non-touch tap ware, or employ a non-touch technique. After hand washing, dry your hands using single-use linen or disposable paper towels (not using an air dryer).
- And of course, after a toilet break. 2
Did you know that hand washing alone can prevent about 30% of diarrhoea-related sicknesses and about 20% of respiratory infections (e.g., colds)? 3 4
When your hands are visibly and clinically clean use an ABHR at the following times:
- Before and after every physical contact.
- Before gloves are put on and after they are taken off.
- On entering and leaving the instrument reprocessing areas.
- After hands inadvertently touch contaminated environmental surfaces, instruments or other equipment.
Apply the volume of ABHR specified by the manufacturer. Leave your hands to dry naturally; do not dry them with linen or paper towels.
Follow the measures below to prevent transmission of infection. Damaged skin harbors higher numbers of micro-organisms than intact skin, consequently the risk of skin infection and transmission of infection to others increases:
- Cover superficial cuts or open skin lesions with a waterproof dressing, even if gloves are worn over the affected area/s.
- Refrain from direct physical contact if you have an exudative lesion or weeping dermatitis on the lower arms, hands or face that cannot effectively be dressed to prevent transmission until the condition is resolved.
- Use an aqueous based hand moisturiser regularly to maintain skin health; compatible with the hand hygiene products used. 2
Wear appropriate PPE for any procedure or activity associated with a risk of contamination. When gloves are required for procedures, they should:
- Fit properly for your hand size, not too tight & not too loose.
- Fingernails should be kept short and clean.
- Refrain from wearing nail polish, nail jewellery, artificial nails, and jewellery on the hands or arms.
- A new pair of gloves for each session.
- Replace gloves as soon as possible if they become soiled or damaged, do not wash gloves as this may damage glove integrity.
- For general procedures, wear non-sterile examination gloves that comply with AS/NZS 4011; or, when a sterile field is required, wear sterile gloves that comply with AS/NZS 4179.
By following all these steps above you will help prevent the spread of infection. Do your bit to control what you spread via your hands.
- World Health Organization. Infection Control. 2016.
- Infection Prevention & Control Practice Standards. New Zealand Dental Council. May 2016.
- Ejemot RI, Ehiri JE, Meremikwu MM, Critchley JA. Hand washing for preventing diarrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008;(1):CD004265.
- Rabie T, Curtis V. Handwashing and risk of respiratory infections: a quantitative systematic review.Trop Med Int Health. 2006;11(3):258-67.