Catherine Whitnall of The Lindsay Daily Post reports that hand washing is one of the most simple and effective ways to fight disease, yet many people either forget to wash their hands or don’t do it properly.
Recently, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge (HKPR) District Health Unit joined forces with the Ross Memorial Hospital to spread the word during Hand Hygiene Week.
On Monday Laura Young, a public health nurse with the HKPR communicable disease control unit, worked with Sharon Connell, an infection control practitioner with the hospital, to provide staff with an interesting look ‘behind the scenes’ when it came to washing hands.
“We always welcome opportunities to partner for better health,” said Connell. “Many communicable diseases are linked to hand washing. It’s our greatest tool impacting our ability to stay healthy.”
Utilizing a special colouring agent and ultraviolet light, the duo showed volunteers a few of the places they miss when they wash their hands – most commonly the wrists, the webbing between fingers, nail beds and jewelry.
“Most people don’t think about washing their wrists when it comes to hand washing,” pointed out Connell.
As well, many also don’t think about skin health either. Dry hands create crevices in which bacteria can sit and not easily be removed. Moisturized, healthy skin is a less inhabitable environment., added Connell.
For the most part, everyone scored well, but such is not generally the case.
A recent study prepared for the American Society for Microbiology and The Soap & Detergent Association found that women have better hand hygiene habits than men. The study was based on observing the hand washing habits of more than 6,000 individuals attending various attractions in four American cities. Ninety per cent of women observed washed their hands after using a public restroom, compared with 75 per cent of men.
Studies show that washing your hands seven or more times a day provides you with 4.2 times the fighting power of preventing an illness, said Young.
And the risks are everywhere.
While surfaces such as hand rails, door knobs and shopping carts may look clean, infectious germs may lurk on surfaces for hours or even days given the right conditions. If people come in contact with these surfaces and then touch their mouths, eyes or noses, they risk spreading the germs to themselves or others. This can result in colds, or more serious diseases such as influenza, Hepatitis A, meningitis and diarrhea.
“That’s why it’s so important to be diligent,” said Young.
As well, the women pointed out, alcohol sanitizers can be used as a temporary alternative until a sink is found but they are not a replacement for proper hand washing. Nor do they help if the hands are dirty. The women also highly recommend using liquid soap rather than bar soap, which can dry out and potentially contain bacteria.
However, even when people wash their hands, they may not be doing a good enough job.
As a bit of a refresher, people should:
Wet hands under warm, running water and use soap to create a lather.
Rub hands together for at least 15 seconds away from the running water, using the lather to wash the front and back of hands, as well as between fingers and under nails.
Rinse hands under the warm running water and dry them thoroughly with a clean towel.
Supervising children to help them learn good hand washing habits is also recommended.
“Our mothers had it right from the start. If people just wash their hands, the right way, on a regular basis, they’ll be much better off,” said Connell.
Connell also reminds people entering the hospital to remember to use the sanitizer provided on their way in as well as on their way out. This way, they are effectively killing bacteria they may bring into the facility and preventing bringing anything out of the hospital.
During the month of April, the healthy hands promotion will also be “taken on the road,” noted Leanne Harding, coordinator of infection control at the hospital. The program will visit every department.
As well, a display has been installed in the cafeteria and educational presentations will run via the hospital’s computer network.
Harding added the staff did previously conduct an audit of the hospital’s hand hygiene practices and looks forward to following up the process to identify any improvements.