Contaminated hands can spread a number of infectious diseases such as gastrointestinal infections, influenza and hepatitis A. Observing good hand hygiene can greatly reduce the spread of these organisms that can cause serious health problems, especially in those with developing or weak immune systems such as infants or the elderly.
Infection Control Coordinator Gerald Chan at St John of God Murdoch Hospital says a quick rinse with water is not enough to make a real difference.
“Visibly clean looking hands can harbour nasty pathogens but they can easily be cleaned effectively with an alcohol based handrub within 10-20 seconds,” says Mr Chan.
These waterless agents kill almost 99.9% of most harmful bacteria.”
“Use soap and water when your hands appear visibly dirty. Ensure that you rub your wet hands together to make a lather and scrub them well for at least 20 seconds before rinsing. Thoroughly dry your hands after and where possible, moisturize your hands to reduce the risk of developing dry and cracked skin which can lead to an infection.”
Mr Chan says it is especially important to wash your hands in a health care setting, but if everyone in the wider community was mindful of hand hygiene, we would see a considerable reduction in the spread of germs.
When should you wash your hands?
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing nappies or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After touching garbage