According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hand hygiene is one of the most important ways to prevent the spread of infections, including the common cold, flu, and even hard-to-treat infections such as MRSA. Patients and visitors should practice hand hygiene:
- Before preparing or eating food.
- Before touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Before and after changing wound dressings or bandages.
- After using the restroom.
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
- After touching hospital surfaces such as bed rails, bedside tables, doorknobs, remote controls or the phone.
Health care providers should practice hand hygiene every time they enter a patient room, before putting on gloves, and after removing gloves. Patients and visitors should ask their doctors and nurses to clean their hands before examining you.
According to the CDC, there are two methods of proper hand hygiene: soap and water and using an alcohol-based hand rub. The CDC recommends using soap and water when your hands look dirty, after you use the bathroom, and before you eat or prepare food. The CDC recommends using an alcohol-based hand rub when your hands do not look dirty and if soap and water are not available.
When using soap and water:
- Wet your hands with warm water. Use liquid soap if possible. Apply a nickel- or quarter-sized amount of soap to your hands.
- Rub your hands together until soap forms a lather and then rub all over the top of your hands, in between your fingers and the area around and under the fingernails.
- Continue rubbing your hands for 15 seconds. Need a timer? Imagine singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a paper towel if possible. Then use your paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door if needed.
When using an alcohol-based hand rub:
- Follow directions on the bottle of how much product to use. Only use products that contain 60-95% ethanol or isopropanol (types of alcohol).
- Rub hands together and then rub product all over the top of your hands, in between your fingers and the area around and under the fingernails.
- Continue rubbing until your hands are dry. If enough rub was used to kill germs, it should take at least 15 seconds of rubbing before your hands feel dry. You should not rinse your hands with water or dry them with a towel.