The importance of high-quality hand hygiene compliance has never been so apparent as now--on the decline of a global pandemic and the leading edge of a potentially problematic influenza season in the US.
The Importance of High-Quality Hand Hygiene in a Post-COVID World
Washing your hands--a concept so simple children do it, yet so powerful it can stop a worldwide pandemic.
There's just one problem.
You're not doing it correctly.
According to WebMD;
The single most important piece of advice health experts can give to help us stay safe from COVID-19 is this one: Wash your hands.
Hand-washing -- with soap and water -- is a far more powerful weapon against germs than many of us realize.
Coronaviruses [...] are encased in a lipid envelope -- basically, a layer of fat. Soap can break that fat apart and make the virus unable to infect you.
The second thing soap does is mechanical. It makes skin slippery so that with enough rubbing, we can pry germs off and rinse them away.
Sounds pretty simple, but the vast majority of people still don’t do it right.
Why Washing Your Hands Matters
While the evidence regarding how SARS-CoV-2 spreads from person to person is still being researched, the vast majority of common illness in humans is spread via touch, underscoring the importance hand hygiene plays in healthcare and self-care.
According to Healthline;
Proper handwashing is the best way to protect yourself and others from being exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
To combat COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Trusted Source recommends regularly washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, particularly if you’ve been in a public area or have sneezed, coughed, or blown your nose.
Washing your hands properly with soap and running water can stave off illnesses that affect healthy people, as well as those with weakened immune systems.
Handwashing can protect you from COVID-19 and respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, and gastric infections that cause diarrhea.
Handwashing Do's and Don'ts
The act of washing your hands is, on its face, relatively simple.
Aside from extreme circumstances, the entire process should take about 60 seconds.
Part of the issue surrounding low levels of hand hygiene compliance appears to be that many people do not know when to wash their hands.
As a general rule of thumb, everyone should wash their hands with soap and water, before:
- Preparing food or eating.
- Providing care to a sick or injured person, and;
- Inserting or removing contact lenses or applying nasal spray.
- Making food.
- Using the restroom or changing a diaper.
- Touching an animal, its food, or waste.
- Blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
- Providing care to a sick or injured person, and;
- Handling garbage or trashcans.
However, washing your hands is only half of the equation.
The other half is, and just as important, drying your hands thoroughly, specifically with a paper towel.
What many people may not be aware of is that bacteria are more easily transmitted from wet hands than dry hands.
This is one of the primary reasons why hand drying is so integral to stopping the spread of germs and bacteria.
Using paper towels to dry your hands not only removes the moisture from hands more quickly and efficiently than other drying methods, but the friction caused by the towels allows for even further removal of microorganisms.
Moreover, paper towels serve as a protective barrier from recontamination after hand washing when used to turn off faucets and open doors.
Finally, the correct and safe use of hand sanitizer has come to the forefront of national attention recently due to poisonings related to low-quality materials and incorrect usage.
It is appropriate to use hand sanitizer in one of two circumstances:
- After washing and drying your hands, typically after exiting a restroom, or;
- In the absence of soap when some level of hand sanitation is desirable, such as after pumping gas, touching a germ hotspot, or exiting the grocery store.
Keep in mind that hand sanitizer, just like any other disinfectant or antibiotic;
- Works best when used after soap and water are applied.
- Has a laytime of approximately 15-20 seconds where your hands should remain wet to meet product effectiveness claims, and;
- Should not be overused to prevent damage to the skin or the removal of healthy skin bacteria--potentially leading to infections.
Increasing and Ensuring Hand Hygiene Compliance
Studies have shown several factors correlate with high levels of hand hygiene compliance among facility occupants and guests, including:
- Employee monitoring and feedback systems, commonly seen in healthcare environments.
- Ongoing workforce training and reminders in the form of signage for facility guests regarding proper hand washing and drying practices with an emphasis on why following such practices matter, and;
- Sanitary and well-stocked hand washing stations and restrooms.
References & Resources
Hand hygiene has been labeled as the next best thing to vaccination.
In prior years, that had little meaning and less effect.
Today, confronted with a deadly health emergency with no cure or inoculation, it is one of the few bulwarks between a healthy and thriving society and chaos.
Encouraging your staff and visitors to wash and dry their hands regularly must be followed up by actions from senior leadership that demonstrate a commitment to excellence and safety, which means the hand hygiene stations and restrooms must be cleaned regularly and visibly safe to use.
If you would like more information regarding the effectiveness of high-performance infection prevention and control measures, or if you would like to schedule a free, no-obligation onsite assessment of your facility's custodial needs, contact us today for a free quote!
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