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Principles of Hand Hygiene

The two leading sets of guidelines on hand hygiene in healthcare settings are published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  These guidelines have been prepared to improve patient health and safety through correct, evidence-based hand hygiene.  Each guideline is a compendium of critical knowledge, data and know-how on hand hygiene in the medical field. Within each set of guidelines are recommendations on hand hygiene technique, indications, products, and management to effectively and systematically reduce the spread of infection.  Every facet of hand hygiene is discussed to ensure preventative hygiene measures can be conducted in any facility with calculable results.

Fundamentals of Hand Hygiene

Hand hygiene can be conducted at varying levels depending on the situation and risk of infection. This effectiveness depends on both technique and hand hygiene products. In general there are three levels which will conveniently be called, general hand hygiene, hygienic hand hygiene and surgical hand hygiene. While general hand hygiene keeps hands clean of daily dirt and grease with soap and water, hygienic hand hygiene takes cleanliness a step further by removing microorganisms that can cause infection with soap and water in combination with alcohol hand disinfection. Surgical hand hygiene is conducted on clean hands with enough alcohol hand disinfectant to keep hands wet for a certain amount of time, usually 90 to 180 seconds depending on international guidelines, to kill local microorganisms and microorganisms transferred from one’s surroundings. No-touch dispensers increase the safety of hand disinfection by preventing cross contamination.


Frequently Missed Areas During Handwashing

The simple act of handwashing does not guarantee all areas of the hands will be equally cleaned. Areas such as the fingertips, thumbs and in between the fingers are frequently missed during a routine handwash. This can leave the hands contaminated and possibly weaken the effect of hand disinfectants; especially the fingertips which are the most commonly used part of the hand. Extra care must be taken to wash all parts of the hands thoroughly.