Keeping the bugs at bay – the importance of hand hygiene

Keeping the bugs at bay – the importance of hand hygiene

Infection control is something Newcastle and Hunter Community Health takes very seriously, and for good reason. Good hand hygiene is the single most effective way to reduce the spread of infections.

As we all go about our day, we are exposed to germs and they accumulate on our hands.

Every time we touch our eyes, mouth or nose we are potentially transferring germs associated with ailments such as the common cold, influenza and gastroenteritis.

Occasionally there can be an outbreak of something much more serious, like Ebola, but regardless of the type of bug it pays to be diligent.

We’re especially mindful that some of our clients may have a weakened immune system, in particular if they’ve recently been ill, in hospital or living with a chronic illness, making them much more susceptible to infection. It’s important we emphasise the need for good hand hygiene not only to our staff but for everyone – our clients, their families, other carers.

Unfortunately, while easy to catch, some infections can become life-threatening in a very short space of time.

According to Health Direct warm, soapy water is the best option for washing your hands when they are visibly dirty and suggest the following tips when washing your hands:

  1. Remove all jewellery, even rings, so you can reach all surfaces on your hands.
  2. Wet hands with running water (preferably warm).
  3. Apply soap or liquid soap. Normal soap is just as good as antibacterial soap.
  4. Rub your hands together, covering all surfaces, including the back of your hands and between your fingers.
  5. Rub hands together for a further 20 seconds.
  6. Rinse hands, making sure you remove all soap.
  7. Turn off tap using the towel or paper towel.
  8. Dry your hands thoroughly with a paper towel, a clean hand towel or an air dryer if you are in a public toilet.

These days many people carry a small bottle of hand sanitizer with them for when they’re out and about. This is a great alternative to soap and water, but it will only be effective if hands are free from visible dirt. Around half a teaspoon is all that is needed in the palm of the hand, followed by 20-30 seconds of hand rubbing until the skin is dry.

Health Direct has some more great tips for good hand hygiene, including:

  • Carry some hand sanitiser with you and use it whenever you want to decontaminate your hands, for example, after using public transport.
  • Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your elbow, instead of into your hands.
  • Wear disposable gloves before handling dirty nappies or cleaning up blood or any other body fluid.
  • Be a good role model and encourage children to wash their hands properly and frequently.
  • When using cloth towels to dry your hands, hang the towel up to dry after each use, and launder the towels regularly.

So, in the interests of keeping the bugs at bay spread the message that the simple act of exercising good hand hygiene is something everyone can do.

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