Although we can't see it, as we go about life, bacteria and germs accumulate on our hands. Thousands of people die every day around the world from infections. This includes babies, elderly and sick people. Hands are the biggest pathways of germ transmission, which is why hand hygiene and hand washing is the most important way to minimise transmission of harmful germs. Hand washing can help prevent the spread of common infections such as the flu, colds, and gastro. Babies and children must also wash their hands and always make sure hands are dried properly.
Examples of when you should wash your hands include:
- When your hands are visibly dirty
- After going to the toilet
- After helping a child go to the toilet or changing a nappy
- After handling rubbish, chemicals or anything that could be contaminated
- Before preparing and eating food
- After touching raw meat
- After sneezing/blowing nose
- After touching an animal
- After cleaning up blood, vomit or any other body fluids
- After cleaning the bathroom
- Before and after you visit a sick person in hospital
- Before and after touching a wound, cut or rash
Hand washing tips
The best and most effecting way of keeping your hands clean is washing with warm water and soap. You must:
- Remove all jewellery from hands
- Wet hands with warm water
- Apply soap and rub your hands together to cover all surfaces including under the finger nails
- Rub hands together for another 20-30 seconds
- Rinse your hands ensuring all soap has been removed
- Turn off tap using a hand towel or paper towel
- Dry your hands thoroughly using a clean hand towel, paper towel, of hand dryer if you are using a public toilet
Another way you can maintain hand hygiene is using an alcohol based hand rub. This is also known as hand sanitiser. Sanitiser is a great to carry with you as you will not always have access to a sink and soapy water. This is a little more harmful on the hands as it dries the skin out more, but works just as well to maintain great hand hygiene. This is only effective is there is no physical dirt on your hands.
- Put one full pump of the liquid into your hands (half a teaspoon)
- Cover all areas from the palms, to fingers, to back of hand, to finger nails and wrists.
- Keep on rubbing until hands are dry.
If hand hygiene is regularly used, this could help minimise the risk of infection by 16%!