Proper hand hygiene reduces the risk of healthcare-associated infections, which reduces the number of medical errors. Hand hygiene is a term that means cleansing of the hands by either washing with soap and water or by applying an antiseptic agent to the hands, such as an alcohol-based hand rub. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has posted on its website guidelines for proper hand hygiene techniques.4
Hand hygiene is the first line of defense and handwashing is generally considered the single most important procedure for preventing the spread of nosocomial infection.
Hands should be cleaned:
- Upon completion of required tasks and before leaving the laboratory
- Immediately after removal of gloves or other personal protective equipment
- Upon contact or when there is visible contamination with blood or other potentially infectious material
- Before and after patient contact
- Before eating, drinking, smoking, applying cosmetics, or handling contact lenses
- Before and after using the bathroom
- Before any activities in which hand contact is made with mucous membranes, the eyes, or breaks in the skin (eg, cuts, abrasions, wounds).
Proper handwashing techniques:
- Wet hands with water.
- Apply enough soap to cover all surfaces.
- Thoroughly wash all parts of hands and fingers up to the wrists, rubbing hands together for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse hands with water and dry thoroughly with paper towels.
- Use paper towels to turn off faucet before discarding the towels in the waste receptacle.
Alcohol-based hand rub
A preparation containing alcohol is designed for application to the hands to reduce the number of microorganisms on the hands. In the United States, such preparations usually contain 60 to 95 percent ethanol or isopropanol.
New guidelines developed by the CDC and infection control organizations recommend that healthcare workers use an alcohol-based hand rub (a gel, rinse, or foam) to routinely clean their hands between patient contacts, as long as hands are not visibly dirty.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Hand hygiene in healthcare settings. http://www.cdc.gov/handhygiene/Basics.html.