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The science behind washing hands – Methods, Duration and Frequency

Hands are the main pathways of germ transmission during health care. Hand hygiene is therefore the most important measure to avoid the transmission of harmful germs and prevent healthcare-associated infections.

Health Desk Health Desk
New Delhi Updated on: October 18, 2020 11:59 IST
The science behind washing hands – Methods, Duration and Frequency
Image Source : INSTAGRAM/LORNASHERLAND

The science behind washing hands – Methods, Duration and Frequency

There are many studies that prove that hand hygiene helps in reducing hospital-acquired infections and is also essential for one’s good health. Thousands of people die every day around the world from infections acquired while receiving health care. Hands are the main pathways of germ transmission during health care. Hand hygiene is therefore the most important measure to avoid the transmission of harmful germs and prevent healthcare-associated infections. Dr Sonar Narula, Consultant Microbiology, Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre shares 3 types of hand hygiene.

Social Hand Hygiene 

1. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer?  The “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
2. The aim of social (routine) hand washing with soap and warm water is to remove dirt and organic material, dead skin and most transient organisms. On visibly clean hands it can be undertaken using an alcohol hand rub, and this will remove transient organisms.
3. It’s especially important to wash:
 
a. Before eating or preparing food
b. Before touching your face
c. After using the restroom
d. After leaving a public place
e. After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
f. After handling your mask
g. After changing a diaper
h. After caring for someone sick
i. After touching animals or pets
 
4. If soap and water are not readily available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Cover all surfaces of your hands and rub them together until they feel dry.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
 

Antiseptic Hand Hygiene

Antiseptic hand disinfection with an antiseptic hand wash agent is generally carried out for aseptic procedures in the hospital. Hygienic hand disinfection will remove and kill most transient micro- organisms.
 
Clean your hands by rubbing them with an alcohol-based formulation, as the preferred mean for routine hygienic hand antisepsis if hands are not visibly soiled. It is faster, more effective, and better tolerated by your hands than washing with soap and water. Wash your hands with soap and water when hands are visibly dirty or after visiting the toilet.
 
To prevent Hospital acquired infection WHO (world health organisation) has provided 7 Steps and 5 Moments of Hand Hygiene. 7 steps are as follows: (After taking appropriate soap solution/ alcoholic hand rub- 2-3 ml) Follow all step 5 times.
 
1. Palm to palm.
2. Back of palm of both hands.
3. Finger interlacing.
4. Rub knuckles of both hands.
5. Rub thumb of both hands.
6. Rub wrist of both hands
5 Moments of Hand Hygiene by WHO which are applicable in a healthcare setup
1. Before touching patients
2. Before performing any aseptic procedure
3. After blood/body fluid exposure
4. After touching patient
5. After touching patients surroundings
 

Surgical Hand Hygiene

Surgical hand washing requires the removal and killing of transient micro-organisms and substantial reduction and suppression of the resident flora of the surgical team for the duration of the operation. Surgical hand hygiene is performed for at least 5 to 10 mins.
 
During COVID-19 pandemic Hand hygiene is an integral part of prevention and transmission of Coronavirus infection. In addition to the above 5 Moments of Hand Hygiene mentioned by WHO, it is recommended to follow the practise of  hand hygiene after touching any surface in your surroundings to prevent transmission of infection.

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