4 Important Points about Hand Hygiene

hand hygiene

Clean hands have the power to prevent infections. In fact, health care providers might need to clean their hands as many as 100 times per 12-hour shift, depending on the number of patients and intensity of care. Kemper Alston, MD, MPH, chief of the Division of Infectious Disease, tells us more.

When should those of us who work with patients clean our hands?

The 5 moments for hand hygiene as described by the World Health Organization include: 1.) Before touching a patient 2.) Before a clean or aseptic procedure 3.) After the risk of body fluid exposure 4.) After touching the patient 5.) After touching the patient’s surroundings.

Is it better to clean our hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer?

We recommend using an alcohol-based hand rub if the hands are not visibly soiled because it is more accessible, faster and more likely to be performed. To wash with soap and water requires locating an available sink and spending a little more time on technique. Soap and water is preferred, however, when the patient has C. difficile.

Does the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer cause antibiotic resistance?

Alcohol is not related to the antibiotics we administer to patients to treat infections. Using alcohol-based hand sanitizer does not promote antibiotic resistance.

Which areas of our hands do we most frequently miss when cleaning them?

Fingertips and thumbs are also the most likely places to be missed.

 Stay Informed

Sign up to receive the latest stories, information and guidance from our experts on a wide variety of health topics.