Hand Washing

Hand washing is one of the most important hygiene principles in the prevention of infection. By employing good hand washing techniques many disorders can be avoided such as food poisoning wound infections, and maintaining the general health of hands and nails.

Good Hand Washing Techniques

An effective hand wash needs nothing more than warm water, soap and a clean dry towel. This should be enough to remove most household germs and restore the hands back to being ‘clean’.

To ensure a hand wash is effective, the hands should firstly be moistened with warm water followed by the application of some soap. There are many anti-bacterial preparations available but in most instances, a general soap will be sufficient. Using a repetitive motion the palms, fingers, wrists and back of the hands should be cleansed, with special attention to the nails and nail beds as these are areas that are frequently missed and can harbour the most germs due to the anatomical structure.

The soap should be rinsed off using clean water and hands should be dried thoroughly using a clean dry towel. If the towel is not clean it may be the perfect source of bacterial growth and can transfer dangerous germs back onto the hands.

Attention should also be given to the cleanliness of the taps, toilet flushes and light fittings as these will probably all have been touched by contaminated hands. These areas should be cleaned regularly as per manufacturer’s instructions.

Special Circumstances

Hand washing principles should be more rigorously attended to in the following circumstances: before and after changing a plaster or wound covering, before and after entering a hospital whether as a patient or as a visitor, before and after attending food, before and after attending to a newborn infant, especially at feed times and when attending to nappy changes or umbilical cord care, after visiting the toilet, when hands are visibly dirty and after handling animals.

Helping Others

Many people may be unable to practice good hand hygiene for themselves and will greatly benefit from assistance from someone else. The elderly, young children and those who are physically unable to, such as after an operation or because of illness may all appreciate someone helping them to achieve good hygiene practices. By making sure water, soap and towels are accessible will help to prevent infections and allow the person to achieve a higher state of body image and cleanliness.

Encouraging children and educating them on the importance of hand washing will hopefully promote good habits that will be adhered to for their whole life. Most parents will be reassured by their children being able to wash their hands properly especially when they are out of the home such as when at school or in public toilets for example.

The importance of hand washing cannot be emphasised enough. The government have invested a lot of money and research into the subject and hope to reduce the occurrence of hospital infections by educating the public on this simple activity. Hopefully by promoting good practices in the home, those who are the most vulnerable and susceptible to infections will be more protected and less likely to acquire an infection or complication.

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