Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene involves cleaning hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub to prevent transmission of germs to others.

Clean hands are the most important factor in preventing the spread of disease and antibiotic resistance in settings across the continuum of health care.

Hand hygiene is a general term that refers to a method of removing microorganisms from the hands so the germs cannot be transmitted to anyone else. The two most common types of hand hygiene are hand washing with soap and water and using an alcohol-based hand rub. Perform hand hygiene before and after patient/resident contact; after contact with objects or surfaces in the patient/resident’s immediate vicinity; and after removing gloves (if worn).

  • Soap and water should be used when hands are visibly dirty, contaminated, or soiledafter using the restroom, and before eating or preparing food.  Washing hands with soap and water is also recommended to prevent the spread of certain organisms (such as Clostridium difficile).
  • Alcohol-based hand rubs are products that kill germs on the hands. They are fast-acting, convenient, and generally can be used for all situations other than the ones described above.  Be sure to use hand rubs that contain 60-95% ethanol or isopropanol (types of alcohol).

Hand hygiene is part of standard precautions because it is a prevention measure that should be applied to all patients in all settingsall the time.

Patients can take action by asking both their healthcare providers and visitors to practice appropriate hand hygiene.

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