Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene is critical for achieving health and well-being.

It’s hard to believe that there was a time when the concept of hand disinfection wasn’t widely accepted. In fact, if it wasn’t for the persistence of a Hungarian physician, it might never have existed!

History

In 1847, while working in Vienna General Hospital’s First Obstetrical Clinic, Ignaz Semmelweis made an interesting discovery: Women delivered by physicians had a higher rate of mortality than those delivered by midwives. Semmelweis traced the higher rate of infection back to the fact that it was common practice for physicians to conduct autopsies in between deliveries, which the midwives weren’t doing. A controlled trial led by him, in which physicians were obliged to wash their hands and instruments using a chloride of lime solution, was successful in reducing the mortality rate by 12-16%. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until two decades after his death when his findings were given credit.

Source: BMJ Journals

 

Why wash your hands?

Germs from unwashed hands can be transferred to objects, into the body and into foods and drinks. Washing hands kills germs, therefore preventing the spread of illnesses and infections. In short, hand-washing saves lives!

 

Hand hygiene tips

  1. Soap and water is best. That said, alcohol-based hand sanitiser is effective at reducing most germs.
  2. Don’t forget to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
  3. Scrub for at least 20 seconds.

 

When to wash your hands?

Get into the habit of washing your hands…

Before:

  • Preparing food
  • Eating
  • Caring for someone who is ill
  • Treating a wound

After:

  • Preparing food
  • Caring for someone who is ill
  • Treating a wound
  • Using the bathroom
  • Changing diapers
  • Blowing your nose
  • Touching animals
  • Touching garbage

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention