Protect yourself by washing your hands

Vicki L. Tutor, BSN, RN, CIC, Infection Preventionist

hand washingHand hygiene is the number one way to prevent the spread of infection. As healthcare workers, we have a responsibility to our patients, their loved ones and each other to wash our hands before and after each episode of care.

With cold and flu season on the horizon, it’s also important that everyone take precautions. Washing your hands can keep you from becoming sick and can keep you from spreading germs or illness to your loved ones and co-workers.

When to perform hand hygiene

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends performing hand hygiene

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage

Cleaning your hands the right way

Washing your hands is an important part of personal health care, and can help keep you and your loved ones safe. To clean your hands the right way

  • Place a clean paper towel under your arm.
  • Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm is better) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails and rings. Friction is as important as the use of soap.
  • Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse your hands well under running water. Holding your hands so water runs down and into the sink.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
    • If you wash often, pat your hands dry with the paper towel.
  • Use the paper towel to open the door of the restroom.

In some cases you can use alcohol-based gel or foam to clean your hands. Apply a dime-sized portion of the product to the palm of one hand; then rub your hands together and rub the product over all the surfaces of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.

Remember: Your hands can be dirty even though there may not be visible dirt on your hands. For visibly dirty hands, always use soap and water. Otherwise, you can use alcohol-based gel or foam to clean your hands.

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