With winter upon us, we probably each know someone who is battling a bad cold right now. Viruses tend to abound during the cold months, and everywhere you go, people are sneezing, sniffling, and coughing.
If you have a cold, what’s the best way to prevent others from catching it? Handwashing.
If you’re feeling fine, what’s the best to prevent yourself from catching someone else’s cold? Handwashing.
Cleaning your hands regularly helps prevent the spread of germs. This week, December 2 – 8, is National Handwashing Awareness Week, so we want to talk about the importance of handwashing for healthcare providers, patients, and family members.
For Healthcare Providers
The CDC says that on average, healthcare providers clean their hands less than half of the times they should. The best way to prevent infecting yourself as a healthcare provider, as all as your patients and others, is to clean your hands in the following situations:
- Before and after eating
- Before and after coming in contact with a patient’s intact skin (such as when taking pulse or lifting a patient out of bed)
- After contact with blood, body fluids, mucus membranes, open skin, or wound dressings
- After contact with medical equipment in the immediate vicinity of the patient
- When moving from a contaminated-body area to a clean-body area during patient care
- After glove removal
- After using the restroom
While it might sound neurotic, it’s actually safe hand hygiene. Cleaning your hands this often reduces the spread of germs to both patients and yourself.
At Bridgeway Senior Living, we take handwashing very seriously. It’s always better to wash our hands too much than too little, and potentially put ourselves and our residents at risk.
For Patients and Families
Viruses and other harmful germs abound in healthcare settings. Any time you enter a hospital, rehab center, or even your doctor’s office, you are at risk of catching an infection. Hospitals, especially, are breeding grounds for infections. In fact, at any given time, 1 out of every 25 hospital patients have an infection unrelated to the reason for their admission.
As a patient or their loved one, part of the infection-prevention responsibility lies with you. Here’s what you can do for yourself:
- Remind care providers to wash their hands before touching the patient. Don’t be afraid to ask politely, “Would you mind washing your hands before changing the bandage?”
- Visitors should wash their hands before and after touching the patient.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers often if you can’t make it to the sink. These hand sanitizers kill most bad germs (notable exception is c.diff), and do not contribute to antibiotic resistance.
Here’s when you should be cleaning your hands:
- When preparing and/or eating food
- Before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- Before and after changing your own bandages
- After using the restroom
- After touching any hospital surfaces.
You do not need to use water and soap every single time. Keeping alcohol-based sanitizing hand gel at your bedside is a convenient way to clean your hands after touching any possible contaminated surface. Use the sanitizer often and liberally.
When washing with water and soap, the temperature of the water or type of soap is not so important. The main mechanism of handwashing is the sudsy friction generated by rubbing your hands together.
Here’s how the CDC says you should wash your hands:
- Wet your hands with warm water. Use liquid soap if possible. Apply a nickel- or quarter-sized amount of soap to your hands.
- Rub your hands together until the soap forms a lather and then rub all over the top of your hands, in between your fingers and the area around and under the fingernails.
- Continue rubbing your hands for at least 15 seconds. Need a timer? Imagine singing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a paper towel if possible. Then use your paper towel to turn off the faucet and to open the door if needed.
To raise more awareness about the importance of handwashing, share this post during National Handwashing Awareness Week!