Hand hygiene – The importance of infection control

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When it comes to infection control, effective hand hygiene is a must. If people aren’t rigorous in their approach to cleaning their hands, they can put themselves and others in danger. Indeed, hand hygiene is now regarded as one of the most significant elements in the battle against infection. If properly implemented, simple precautions can significantly cut the risk of contamination in a range of settings, particularly in the healthcare sector.

Why hand hygiene matters

We all carry millions of microorganisms on our hands, and most of these are harmless. However, some are not. Broadly speaking, there are two different types of microorganisms. The first are referred to as ‘resident’, while the second are ‘transient’ and are picked up during the course of everyday activities. These germs can easily be transferred to other people and to objects in the environment. They can cause everything from colds and flu to diarrhoea and skin infections. We also risk infecting ourselves with these organisms by touching our mouths, eyes or open cuts.

Effective hand washing and other hygiene measures can help to remove these transient germs before they cause problems.

Hand Hygiene

The special significance of hand hygiene in healthcare settings

This is especially important in healthcare settings because people receiving medical treatment are often more vulnerable to infection from microorganisms. With already compromised immune systems, these individuals can suffer much more severe symptoms.

Meanwhile, one of the most worrying trends in modern healthcare is the rise that has been seen in the number of infections caused by multidrug-resistant organisms such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Poor hygiene can significantly increase the risk of these infections. It’s worth noting that the organisms are most commonly spread by healthcare workers contaminated hands. As well as by contaminated equipment and general environments. 

Effective hand hygiene is the most important, simplest and cheapest method of reducing the prevalence of infections like MRSA.

Simple but effective hygiene measures

When it comes to hand hygiene, there are certain basics that everyone should know, especially those who work in healthcare settings. For example, when washing, it’s important to remove any jewellery and to rinse hands under running water (ideally warm), lathering with soap and using friction. No part of the fingers or hands should be left unwashed. It is then best to turn taps off using the wrist or elbow rather than the fingers. Single use towels or forced air drying should be used to dry hands. 

Meanwhile, alcohol gels can be used as an alternative on hands that are already visibly clean. These products can provide a supplement to hand washing for those who are keen to achieve even greater levels of disinfection. 

Healthcare workers should always wash or use a gel before and after direct patient contact, and after any contaminating procedure.

We stock a range of infection control products that can boost hand hygiene, including gels, disposable gloves and wipes. By taking advantage of these resources, and by following the relevant hygiene procedures, you can help to minimise the risk of any infections.