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Hand hygiene for your health

Anne How, lead infection prevention nurse, explains how to keep your hands clean and why hand hygiene is so important.

Hands are the worst germ-spreaders in the home. Washing your hands is one of the easiest ways to protect yourself and others from illnesses such as food poisoning, diarrhoea, and in the autumn and winter months especially, cold and flu viruses.

You should wash your hands frequently during the day, but particularly after you've been to the toilet, before and after preparing and eating food, and after having contact with animals, including pets.

People you come into contact with may be particularly vulnerable to germs without you even knowing it, such as children, people aged 65 or over, and people who have a serious medical condition, or a low or compromised immune system. It's also especially important to make sure your hands are clean when you visit someone in hospital or another healthcare setting, to help prevent the spread of infection.

Washing your hands thoroughly should take as long as singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice, which is around 20 seconds. But what's the best technique?

1.         Wet your hands with water (warm or cold).

2.         Apply enough soap to cover all over your hands. You can use alcohol-based handrub if you don't have immediate access to soap and water..

3.         Rub hands palm to palm.

4.         Rub the back of your left hand with your right palm with interlaced fingers. Repeat with the other hand.

5.         Rub your palms together with fingers interlaced.

6.         With your hand in a fist, rub the backs of your fingers against opposing palms.

7.         Clasp your left thumb with your right hand and rub in rotation. Repeat with your left hand and right thumb.

8.         Rub the tips of your fingers in the other palm in a circular motion, going backwards and forwards. Repeat with the other hand.

9.         Rinse hands with water (warm or cold).

10.       Dry thoroughly, ideally with a disposable towel.

11.       Use the disposable towel to turn off the tap.

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Anne How, lead infection prevention nurse (centre) and the infection prevention team

Anne How, lead infection prevention nurse (centre) and the infection prevention team