National Handwashing Awareness Week
December 1 – 7 2019 is National Handwashing Awareness Week in the US. Handwashing is the most basic of infection prevention and control measures, however this simple step in actually saves lives.
In the clinical area, most healthcare professionals recognise the importance of hand hygiene, and adhere to handwashing policy. However teaching our patients and their families of the importance of everyday hand hygiene can help to prevent illness in the first instance, and therefore help to reduce the incidence of hospitalisation due to infection.
On Global Handwashing day 2019 the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched their new campaign “Life is Better with Clean Hands”. The national campaign is designed to motivate all adults to make clean hands part of their daily lives. The CDC have designed resources to help raise awareness about the importance of handwashing at key times in both homes and public settings, such as before cooking or after using the bathroom.
The resources (which include posters, fact sheets and social media posts) are available from the CDC website by following the link, and are available in both English and Spanish: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/campaign.html
There are also sections on their website that looks into the research that has been used for their recommendations, for example how germs are spread, and why handwashing prevents this spread of infection: https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html
For people in the community the CDC recommends handwashing with soap and water as the primary route of hand hygiene, with alcohol based hand sanitizer second. Although alcohol based sanitizers are extremely effective in the clinical area, they do not eliminate all types of germs and are less effective when hands are visibly soiled or greasy. People may also not use enough of the product or allow it to dry properly, meaning the product is rubbed off, and therefore reducing it’s efficacy. https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.html
The CDC recommend that the process of handwashing should involve 5 steps:
- Wet hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap
- Lather hands by rubbing them together with the soap, including the backs of hands, between fingers, and under nails
- Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds
- Rinse hands well under clean, running water
- Dry hands using a clean towel or air dry them
By encouraging patients and families to adopt healthier hand hygiene practices at home, we can be helping towards achieving better health for the nation and saving lives in the process.