Hand hygiene

Hand hygiene is one of the most effective ways of stopping the spread of infection.

Hand hygiene refers to any method which effectively removes harmful germs, including washing hands with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

Hands should be washed:

  • after going to the toilet or changing a nappy
  • before and after handling food
  • after sneezing, coughing, or blowing nose
  • after caring for someone who is sick
  • after handling rubbish
  • after smoking.

Any cuts and abrasions should be covered with a water-resistant dressing, which should be changed as necessary or when the dressing becomes soiled.

Washing hands with soap and water

Soap and water should be used to wash hands. Any soap can be used, (liquid soap is preferable). Antibacterial soap may not be necessary and may encourage the development of resistant bacteria. Store bar soap in a container that allows drainage or clean and dry reusable containers before refilling with fresh liquid soap.

  • Use soap and running water.
  • Wet hands thoroughly and lather with soap.
  • Rub hands together for at least 20 seconds as you wash them.
  • Pay attention to the backs of hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails.
  • Rinse hands well under running water.
  • Pat dry hands with a single use disposable paper towel or a clean towel.

Cleaning hands with alcohol-based hand sanitiser

Cleaning hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on your hands. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitisers or rubs can be used if your hands are not visibly dirty. Hand sanitiser is not effective when used on visibly dirty hands, and dirt should be washed off first.

  • Squirt enough alcohol-based hand sanitiser into cupped hands to cover all surfaces.
  • Rub hands together for 10 to 15 seconds.
  • Pay attention to the backs of hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails.
  • Ensure hands are rubbed together until all surfaces are dry.

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