Importance of hand washing


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       One of the main causes of transmission of infection is contaminated hands. Routine hand washing is one of the most effective measures used to prevent or control this transmission of infectious diseases. To ensure its effectiveness however, specific techniques needs to be carried out. The following are some of the topics which will be addressed:

  • The importance of hand washing
  • Proper hand washing techniques
  • Short-term alternatives to hand washing
  • Promoting good hand hygiene

The Importance of Hand washing

       Hand washing is an important technique in removing or reducing the number of microorganisms from the hands. This in turn will reduce the potential transmission of these microorganisms directly to others or to surfaces where they can be picked up by others. Washing of ones hands will also decreases the risk of transmission of infectious agents to self. Hand washing is especially important among healthcare workers. “Contaminated hands of health care workers are a primary source of infection transmission in health care setting” (Perry and Potter, 2009, p.655). Of equal importance is also hand washing among young children. In this instance it can help prevent common illnesses such as the flu and help them stay healthier.

       Some of the most common diseases that can be spread through hand to hand contact are infectious diarrhea, the flu, the common cold and also some intestinal disorders. This can affect people who are more vulnerable to infectious diseases such as those with reduced defenses including the elderly or even very young children.

       Other consequences of not washing the hands or improper washing of hands includes food related illnesses for example E.coli infection or salmonella. These conditions can also lead to intestinal problems which can cause vomiting and diarrhea.

Effective Hand washing Techniques

       Hands should be: washed under running water, using a single dose of liquid soap or antiseptic; vigorously rubbed together for 10-15 seconds; rinsed thoroughly under running water and dried with a disposable paper towel (Gould D.Drey, 2008).

       Hand washing technique may sound simple, but to be effective it must be done correctly. Gould D.Drey (2008) made reference to Feldman's criteria which was developed to evaluate hand hygiene technique. Some of the criteria listed in the article were; whether soap bubbles appeared, the absence of environmental contamination by avoiding splashing and coverage of the hand surfaces.

       Another evaluation technique mentioned by Gould D. Drey (2008) was done by Taylor who according to the article, nurses were persuaded to perform their hand washing routine with their eyes shut. A dye was then used to show the parts of the hand that had not received contact. In this instance if parts of the hand did not receive contact during washing this was a sign of inadequate hand washing.

Short-Term Alternatives to Hand washing

       “In addition to hand washing with antiseptic products, hand disinfection also includes the use of alcohol containing waterless hand sanitizers” (Handwashing, Cover story, 2002). The article further went on to say alcohol was an effective alternative when water or towels are not readily available. The availability and convenience of hand sanitizers and antimicrobial gels can also increase compliance in hand cleansing particularly in instances where soap and water are not readily available.

Promoting Good Hand Hygiene

       In order to promote good hand hygiene some of the reasons for being non-compliant must be addressed. Lack of time and a heavy workload were stated as barriers to hand hygiene compliance (R. Baret and J. Randle, 2008). This is mostly evident among health care workers. Some of the things that can be done to improve non-compliance includes; effective communication and education about infection control, reminders posted visually to promote good hand hygiene, conveniently located dispensing equipment with hand sanitizers, only to list a few.

       Practicing good hand hygiene prevents the transmission of nosocomial infections which are only acquired while in heath care facility. Not only are the health care workers to wash hands but encouraging patients and their visitors to do the same will to continue the cycle of infection control.


       The practice of hand washing is no longer only a means of personal hygiene but an important measure of infection control. The incidents of transmitting infectious disease can be minimized by ensuring that hands are washed after using the restroom, before and after eating, when hands are visibly dirty or contaminated, after contact with animals or other person's intact skin, after contact with body fluids, after contact with inanimate objects and the list is not redundant by any means.

       A major way to reduce the incidents of transmitting infections is to think of frequent hand washing, not to be optional but as a rule. Secondly, always keep in mind that the use of gloves does not eliminate the need to wash hands. To protect your health it is recommended you wash your hands as often as necessary.

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