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Hand Hygiene

Introduction

Hand hygiene is one of the most important steps to protect yourself and others from illnesses which are caused by germs (such as bacteria and viruses) spreading easily from person to person due to ineffective handwashing.

Why wash your hands?

Germs are everywhere.  Human and animal faeces is an important source of germs which can be easily transferred onto food and drinks if hands are not washed before the cooking or preparation process.  If food or drinks contaminated with germs are ingested, they can cause diarrhoeal illnesses such as norovirus,  Salmonella and E.Coli 0157. 

Germs which cause respiratory diseases such as flu,  the common cold, SARS or COVID-19 can easily be transmitted from person to person by touching commonly used surfaces such as handles, telephones or tables which have become contaminated from an infected person coughing or sneezing nearby. Germs can then enter your body if you touch your face, eyes, nose and mouth before washing your hands.

Hand washing should be carried out when your hands are visibly dirty.  It should also be performed before:

  • preparing food 
  • eating food and drinking
  • touching your eyes, nose or mouth
  • treating a cut or a wound
  • caring for someone who is unwell

Hand washing should also be carried out after:

  • touching food or raw meat
  • touching the surroundings of a unwell person, such as bed linen
  • using the toilet; changing a nappy or cleaning up bodily fluids
  • blowing your nose, sneezing or coughing
  • adjusting or removing a face covering
  • touching an animal, pet food or treats or animal waste
  • touching household waste/rubbish
  • spending time in public areas where you may have touched frequently used items such as door handles, shopping baskets, hand rails or using public transport
  • handling money


How to wash your hands

Using soap and water is the most effective way to clean your hands.  Lather the soap in your hands with clean running water and wash your hands in this order:

  1. Rub your hands together, palm to palm.
  2. Rub your right palm over the back of your left hand with interlaced fingers; and then repeat with the other hand.
  3. Rub your hands palm to palm, with interlaced fingers.
  4. Rub the backs of your fingers on the opposite palm, interlocking your fingers.
  5. Clasp your right palm and fingers around your left thumb and rub rotationally around the thumb; repeat with the opposite hand.
  6. Rub fingertips of your right hand backwards and forwards over your left palm; repeat with the other hand.
  7. Rinse your hands well with clean water to remove all traces of soap
  8. Dry your hands thoroughly using a clean towel or air dryer.

This process causes friction which helps to lift dirt, grease and microbes (germs) from your skin and rinses them away.

  • It is important not to neglect areas under the nails where a high concentrations of germs can gather.

The entire process of thoroughly washing and drying your hands should take 40-60 seconds.

Alcohol based hand sanitiser

Alcohol based hand sanitiser (or hand rub) is an alcohol-containing preparation (liquid, gel or foam) designed for application to the hands to kill germs.  Hand sanitisers containing an alcohol concentration between 60%-95% are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol based hand sanitisers.  In the absence of soap and clean running water, an alcohol-based hand sanitiser can be used effectively on hands which are not visibly dirty.

Alcohol based hand sanitisers do not work well against all types of germs such as norovirus, Cryptosporidium and they may not remove harmful chemicals from your hands.

  • If your hands have touched harmful chemicals, they should be washed carefully in soap and water as soon as possible.

How to apply hand sanitiser

Apply hand sanitiser in this order:

  1. Apply a palmful of the product into a cupped hand, covering all surfaces of your hands.
  2. Rub your hands together, palm to palm.
  3. Rub your right palm over the back of your left hand with interlaced fingers; and then repeat with the other hand.
  4. Rub your hands palm to palm, with interlaced fingers.
  5. Rub the backs of your fingers on the opposite palm, interlocking the fingers.
  6. Clasp your right palm and fingers around your left thumb and rub rotationally around the thumb; repeat with the opposite hand.
  7. Rub fingertips of your right hand backwards and forwards over your left palm; repeat with the other hand.
  8. Once your hands feel dry, they are safe. 

The duration of the entire process of applying hand sanitiser should take 20-30 seconds.

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