Effective hand hygiene is the single most effective action to reduce healthcare-associated infections. Since Semmelweis’ observation, there have been many studies to confirm the role that healthcare workers (HCW) hands play in transmission of pathogens in the health care setting. Various organizations, including World Health Organization (WHO), have published guidelines on appropriate hand hygiene practices for HCWs.
The five moments of hand hygiene outlined by WHO are: Before patient contact; before aseptic task; after bodily fluid exposure; after patient contact; and after contact with patient surroundings.
Any healthcare worker, caregiver or person involved in direct or indirect patient care needs to be concerned about hand hygiene and should be able to perform it correctly and at the right time.
Hands should be cleaned 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.
Hands should be washed with soap and water when hands are visibly dirty or visibly soiled with blood or other body fluids or after using the toilet. If exposure to potential spore-forming pathogens is strongly suspected or proven, including outbreaks of Clostridium difficile, hand washing with soap and water is the preferred means.
The use of gloves does not replace the need for cleaning hands.
Each year the SAVE LIVES: Clean Your Hands campaign aims to progress the goal of maintaining a global profile on the importance of hand hygiene in health care and to ‘bring people together’ in support of hand hygiene improvement globally.