Keeping it on hand

Not washing your hands is dangerous and has seriously underestimated healthcare risks

Anova Health Institute always stresses the importance of good handwashing habits during our Management Performance Training for Clinic Managers and Clinical Nurses, because it forms a major part of our infection control strategy.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) feels so strongly about this matter that it describes regular handwashing as a “DIY vaccine.”

Plainly put, unwashed hands or hands that are washed infrequently become easy modes of transport for germs and other contaminants.  It’s a fact that the common cold or flu virus is often spread from person to person through an infected person sneezing or coughing into their hand and then shaking someone else’s hand or touching their face (it’s best to sneeze or cough into your elbow, rather). But, colds and flu may be the least of our concerns.  Other germs and viruses that can be shared via unwashed hands include Salmonella, E. coli 0157 bacteria, and the virus often attributed to diarrhea, norovirus. Infections like hand-foot mouth disease and the pneumonia inducing adenovirus are also transmitted this way.

These germs and unwanted passengers are also easily transferred to hands via objects like door handles, railings and bannisters; and mostly any other object that was recently touched by an infected person. People with compromised immune systems, like HIV-positive persons not receiving regular treatment, are particularly.

Sadly, the most vulnerable members of society to be affected badly by insufficient handwashing are small children. More than 1.8 million children die from diarrhea or pneumonia infections each year, many of which are as a direct result of people not washing their hands. These two infections kill more children every year than any other diseases.

Interestingly, schools that adopt a healthy handwashing culture have noted an improvement in attendance of the learners as well as the staff. Companies and organisations that adopt the same culture enjoy the same benefits.

Regular handwashing minimises the occurrence of sickness, which lessens the need for antibiotics, which decreases the likelihood of antibiotic resistance strains occurring. The more antibiotics are used the more chance of antibiotic resistant illnesses developing and this increases the spread of these difficult to treat illnesses.

What’s the best way to wash your hands?

  • Wet your hands thoroughly under clean running water
  • Lather your hands with soap for 20 seconds (about the time it takes to count to 20 with a beat between each number, or write a tweet). Remember to soap the hands front and back, between the fingers and under the nails, where germs love to hide out
  • Rinse
  • Air dry or dry with a paper towel, not a damp communal towel or cloth (like a germ hotel)

When you should do it:

  • Before, during and after handling food (particularly raw meat)
  • Before eating
  • After using/touching the toilet or changing a nappy
  • Before and after treating a sore, cut or wound
  • After blowing your nose or coughing and sneezing into your hand
  • After touching an animal, its food or possibly being exposed to animal waste
  • After handling rubbish, touching a dustbin or a rubbish bag

 

Washing hands saves lives – let’s remember that this World Hand Hygiene Day, May 5.

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