Infectious Disease Cleanup
Disease prevention is in your hands
Keeping your hands clean can prevent a range of infections and save lives. See on this page how and when to clean your hands to prevent illnesses in and out of the hospital. Find out why this is so important, the most common mistakes and what to do to clean efficiently.
Wash or sanitize: what is the difference between the two?
The term “hand washing” is better replaced by “hand hygiene” due to the wider scope of this procedure.
The term encompasses both the use of water and soap and the application of alcoholic preparations (gel or solution).
Why is hand hygiene important?
We use our hands for practically everything we do, and the skin is a reservoir for several microorganisms. Through direct contact (skin to skin) or indirect (touch contaminated objects and surfaces), these microorganisms can transfer from one surface to another. The hands are an efficient vehicle for the transmission of infections and bacteria.
Soap water or alcoholic preparations: what to use?
Hand hygiene with alcoholic preparations and soap and water are equally effective. Use soap and water when hands are visibly dirty.
When to wash your hands?
At home: There are several situations in which hand hygiene is mandatory: before, during and after the preparation of any food; before touching anything that goes into the baby’s mouth; before and after taking a sick person; after scratching or blowing your nose; before and after meals; after going to the bathroom; before and after treating any bruise or injury; after changing diapers or helping a child clean up; after touching, feeding or cleaning an animal; after handling your cat or dog’s food or objects and after touching the trash.
At the hospital: When arriving at the patient’s room to visit him, clean his hands so as not to bring microorganisms from outside. When leaving the room, too. If you are going to participate in any patient care, remember that it is necessary to wash your hands before and after the contact. Escorts can also observe if the health professional is cleaning their hands in at least five moments:
How to sanitize efficiently?
It is not enough to quickly pass the soap or spread a little alcohol gel on your hands.
For hygiene with water and soap or alcoholic preparations to be effective, it is necessary to observe some precautions, such as the quality and quantity of the product used, in addition to the time spent in the process.
See below for the correct way to clean your hands to avoid infections.
- With alcoholic preparations (gel or solution)
- Duration of the entire procedure: 20-30 seconds
- Apply a sufficient amount of alcoholic preparation to a cupped hand so that it will cover the entire surface of the hands.
- Rub your hands together.
- Don’t forget to spread the gel or solution between your fingers and under your nails.
- Wait for your hands to dry.
- Washing your hand using water and soap
- Duration of the entire procedure: 40 to 60 seconds
- Wet your hands with water.
- Apply enough soap (preferably liquid) to the palm of your hand to cover the entire surface of your hands.
- Lather your palms by rubbing them together.
- Rub your hands, between your fingers and under your nails.
- Rinse hands thoroughly with water.
- Dry your hands with a clean towel, absorbent paper, or airflow.
How to calculate the right amount of product?
The amount will depend on the type of solution used and the size of the hand. In general, 2 ml of the product is sufficient.
It is important that the product covers the entire surface of the hands and that they are moist at the end of the process (in the case of alcohol-gel).
What are the most common mistakes?
Many people forget to remove jewelry, such as rings, before starting to clean their hands. Under these objects, microorganisms often accumulate.
There are also those who prefer to spray ordinary alcohol on their hands. This is not recommended, as it can cause microcracks, facilitating colonization by viruses and bacteria. Alcoholic preparations (gel or solution) are the most suitable, as they have emollients and an average concentration of 70% alcohol, which is ideal for bactericidal action.
Areas such as the fingertips, under the nails, between the fingers and thumb are, in general, the most neglected.