Hand hygiene – It’s significance
Hand hygiene is the most efficient method to combat the spread of many infections including coronavirus infection.
It was the Hungarian doctor Ignaz Semmelweis who first identified the importance of handwashing when he observed that the maternal mortality due to sepsis drastically reduced after he started practising washing hands in chlorine-containing water at his hospital.
Hand washing is indeed the most powerful tool to prevent the spread of infectious agents even now. Studies show that the global infant mortality rate of 3.5 million can be reduced by 50% by washing hands with soap and water before food and after defecation.
The handwashing technique should be done using an adequate quantity of soap under running water over a period of 30 to 60 seconds.
Wristwatch or any ornament worn on the hands are to be removed before we start the hand washing process. And then, the following steps are to be carried out one by one…
?Take an adequate amount of soap and water in your palm, make good lather
?Rub palm to palm
?Rub back of each hand with the palm of the other hand and vice versa
?Interlace fingers and rub hands together
? Interlock the fingers and rub the back of both hands using the palm
?Rub thumb of one hand in a rotating manner using the other palm and vice versa
?Rub fingertip of one hand on the palm of the other hand and vice versa
After the above said steps as recommended by WHO, an additional step is recommended by some authorities which include rubbing the wrist of one hand using the palm of the other hand and vice versa in a rotational manner.
These steps need to be completed in 30-60 seconds which is almost equivalent to the time taken to sing the whole song “happy birthday to you” twice or to count till 30.
If there is any dirt left underneath the nails even after these steps, it can be removed using a brush.Avoid keeping long nails as it can be a reservoir for the microbes.
Subsequently, the hand can be dried using a clean preferably single use towel or air drier.
At times when it is not practical to use soap and water for hand hygeine, as during a travel, a hand sanitiser may be used to carry out the above-mentioned steps for at least 20 seconds. But it can never replace hand washing using soap and water and cannot be used when your hands contain visible dirt or grease.
There are two different types of hand sanitisers
– Alcoholic and non-alcoholic which contain triclosan, povidone iodine, benzalkonium chloride, etc instead of alcohol.
Alcoholic hand sanitisers are effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses by destroying their protein envelope. But they are not effective against spores.
World health organization (WHO) and The American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend atleast 60% alcohol content for the hand sanitisers to be effective. Hand sanitizers with lesser alcohol content may not work for many types of microbes and merely reduce the growth of germs rather than killing them. Hence, make sure that the hand sanitizer you buy contains at least 60% alcohol.
When you use hand sanitizer, dispense an adequate amount of the liquid into your palm and follow the steps already mentioned for hand washing for at least 20 seconds and then wait until it dries off completely. Never wash or wipe it off before drying.
Remember, hand washing using soap and water is the best method and hand sanitizers may be used only in circumstances where soap and water wash is not practically possible. Hence, no need to worry about the scarcity of hand sanitizers in the market, soap and water wash is always superior.
?When to wash your hands
?After sneezing, blowing your nose and coughing
?After a hospital visit , visiting or taking care of a sick person
?On returning home from outside
?Before and after food
?Before preparing food
?After using toilet
?After contact with animals
?Before and after touching a wound
?Before wearing a mask and after removing and disposing of the used mask
In circumstances where there is an outbreak of infections like corona, hand hygiene may be performed more frequently in addition to the above-mentioned situations.
Avoid touching your face, particularly eyes, nose and mouth without proper hand hygiene measures.
To summarize, hand hygiene is not a joke.
A few moments we spend on hand hygiene can protect ours as well as our dear one’s health.