“Hand hygiene is the cornerstone of any infection control programme and plays an integral role in reducing the transmission and occurrences of infections, all hospitals must have comprehensive hand hygiene programs in place.” Said the APIC organization.
Hand hygiene is not only for hospital settings. Time immemorial, an African home had a jar of water, a bar of soap and a small bucket where each would wash hands to kill and remove any germs before they ate. Almost all disease prevention starts with hand washing and below are the different kinds;
- Social hand washing. Performed by use of soap and water. This kind of hand washing is to remove dirt and mostly transient microorganisms from the surface of the skin. It is performed in areas with availability of water sinks and soap dispensers. It is best done prior to eating, after bathroom use and whenever there is contact with another person.
- Antiseptic hand washing. Performed by using antiseptics like chlorhexidine and iodine. This kind destroys microorganisms on the surface of the skin and reduces resident bacteria or viruses that live on the skin’s surface. Antiseptic hand washing is performed by health care providers and food service industries.
Days such as these where the killer virus is still lingering, other antiseptic products such as antiseptic bar soaps, creams, hand sprays/gels and wipes containing alcohols and natural antiseptics such as tea tree should be used as additions to the social hand washing especially for areas that lack water.
- Surgical hand washing. Performed prior to sterile operations like surgical procedures with water. However, water is operated using sensors instead of physical contact and before that an antiseptic detergent is used for a full minute from the hands and forearms to the elbows after which sterile towels are used for drying. Surgical hand washing removes resident microorganisms that live on skin in addition to transient microorganisms. Immediately after the procedure is done, gloves are to be worn to prevent the organisms from returning to the skin’s surface.
Hand washing is the first step to hand hygiene. The next is to ensure hands are fully moisturized. Moisturized hands are healthy and may not be easily irritated. Irritations such as open wounds can cause more infections. Use of hand creams or lotions is a good way to prevent any hand irritations.