Hand Hygiene - 101

HELP! Everyone is sick!

Worried about catching that bug running around town?  Do you know the number one way to prevent the spread of disease?  Hand washing. Yep, hand washing, aka good hand hygiene is the number one way to prevent that nasty bug from taking over your body and making you miserable.

So, what is good hand hygiene?  Well, let’s start with what it is not… it’s not running your hands under water and wiping them on your sweater.  It’s not putting a little soap on them, quickly rinsing, drying and grabbing the bathroom door knob with your bare hand as you walk out.  These methods may remove some germs, they do not adequately clean your hands and prevent the spread of your germs to others. 

Good hand hygiene is as follows:
  1. Run your hands under warm or cold water
  2. Apply soap
  3. Vigorously rub the soap all over your hands (including back of hands, under your nails, fingertips, in between fingers);
  4. perform this soapy process for 20 seconds (sing Happy Birthday to yourself twice for timing)
  5. Rinse and then dry with an air dryer or a clean towel. 
*Using your elbow a towel to turn off the faucet and open the restroom door are great ways to prevent recontamination of your hands!

When should you wash your hands?  Frequently! 
  • Before you eat. 
  • Before you prepare food.
  • After using the restroom, coughing, sneezing or wiping your nose.
  • After you change your child’s diaper or dealing with your pets waste and food.
  • After handling garbage.
  • If you are around ill family members or taking care of a sick person wash frequently and especially after touching them or that snotty Kleenex you just picked up.
Are you thinking “Oh, I just use my hand sanitizer.”?  Not so fast! Hand sanitizer is a good option if you are unable to wash your hands with soap and water.  It may not adequately rid your hands of all germs.  If your hands are visibly dirty, its best to find a sink and some soap.

Lastly, if you are sick… remember to steer clear of babies, people with poor immune systems (ex: people in treatment for cancer) and the elderly.  AND! Wash your hands to prevent distributing your illness.

For more information on good hand hygiene visit: http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/

Jessica Daniels, Lead Registered Nurse at Alaska Center for Pediatrics