It’s Okay to Ask: Hand Hygiene as a Frontline Defense Against Infection

April 19, 2017

Over our lifetimes, we have heard the phrase “wash your hands” repeated often. Since childhood, we have been encouraged to wash our hands after playing outside, before eating a meal, after using the restroom, and on many other occasions.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 80 percent of infectious diseases are transmitted by touch. The most simple and effective way to combat the spread of germs is by washing your hands.

It’s Okay to Ask

Clean hands are a great frontline defense against the spread of germs and serious infections. Proper hand hygiene is celebrated on May 5 of this year with World Hand Hygiene Day. While hand hygiene should be practiced in the home, it is an even more crucial practice within the walls of a hospital. Proper hand hygiene in a healthcare setting should be on top of the minds of patients, visitors, and healthcare professionals alike. The spread of germs can lead to serious infections that can be on anyone entering a room.

Healthcare workers and visitors make it a priority to uphold proper hand hygiene, making sure their hands are clean when they enter a room for visitation. Patients should feel comfortable enough to ask every person who enters their room to clean their hands for their protection. If a patient is unsure if the visitor has cleaned their hands, they can ask visitors to do so.

Soap and Water versus Hand Sanitizer

There are a variety of soaps and hand sanitizers on the market. Both are effective in killing or removing germs on your hands, but it is important to know not only when it is appropriate to wash your hands with soap and water or when to use hand sanitizer but the correct way to use each.

If your hands look dirty, you are preparing to eat, or have just used a restroom, you should wash your hands with soap and water. Proper hand washing is done by wetting your hands with water, applying soap, and rubbing your hands together to create a lather for at least 15 seconds. Be sure to scrub your fingertips, nails, thumbs, and between your fingers.

Alcohol-based sanitizers are appropriate to use in other situations, when your hands do not look dirty. When applying sanitizer, it is important to cover every part of your hand while rubbing your hands together until they dry.

Keeping hands clean is not only an effective defense against the spread of serious infection and disease, but it is a simple way to make a difference, especially in a healthcare setting. Research shows that improving hand hygiene can lead to significant reduction in healthcare associated infections by up to 50 percent.

The next time you visit a loved one in the hospital, be sure to do them a favor and clean your hands. You can also let the patient know that your hands are clean for peace of mind. Do not be afraid to ask your visitors to clean their hands, It’s Okay to Ask.