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Hand Hygiene

Guide to Healthy Hand Hygiene

Clean Hands Prevent Infections

Everyone has germs. Our bodies are covered with germs that help us stay healthy, but they can make us sick too. Germs normally present on our skin are known as resident germs. Other germs— transient germs—can be picked up from contact with another person's skin and objects in the environment. Germs can cause infection and prolong recovery. That is why St. Joseph's Hospital Health Center places a special emphasis on hand hygiene. Research has proven and we believe that hand hygiene is the single most important procedure for preventing health care associated infections. You can help by:

  • Performing hand hygiene after using the bathroom and before eating.
  • Asking visitors to perform hand hygiene upon arriving and prior to leaving your room.
  • Asking your health care providers if they have performed hand hygiene.

We have antiseptic towelettes available for your convenience.

Myth: Germs are most easily spread through the air.
Fact: Germs are most easily spread through HAND CONTACT.

HOW to wash your hands

With Soap and Water:

Wet hands with water.

  • Apply soap to hands. Lotion and foam soaps are preferred to bar soap because bar soap can harbor germs.
  • Rub hands vigorously together for at least 15 to 30 seconds. Mechanical friction works to loosen germs.
  • Cover all surfaces of hands, fingers and thumbs. Pay particular attention to the area under rings and fingernails.
  • Rinse hands to remove soap residue and germs, with fingers pointed downward in the sink.
  • Dry hands gently using dry paper towels. Paper towels are preferred to cloth towels because damp cloth towels can harbor germs.
  • Use a clean paper towel to turn off the faucet.

With Alcohol Handrubs:

  • Apply product to palm of one hand.
  • Rub hands together.
  • Cover all surfaces of hands, fingers and thumbs.
  • Rub until hands are dry.
  • When using alcohol handrubs, you have used enough (about 1/2 tsp) if it takes 25 to 30 seconds to dry on your hands.
  • Do not wash off with soap and water, the alcohol continues to offer protection against germs. Soap and water may be used to remove handrub residue if your hands are sticky from repeated use.

WHEN to wash your hands

With Soap and Water:

  • When hands are visibly soiled.
  • After using the restroom.
  • After contact with body fluids like blood, stool, urine, vomit, and nasal or wound drainage.
  • After taking out trash.
  • After handling money.
  • After changing infant or adult diapers.
  • Before you eat.
  • Before you prepare food items.
  • After touching raw meats.
  • After touching animals or pets.
  • After you sneeze or cough into them, even if you use a tissue!
  • Whenever you want to clean your hands.

With Alcohol Handrubs:

  • For routine cleaning of hands, when not visibly soiled.
  • If you have contact with contaminated objects in the environment. Before and after you care for or have contact with someone who is very sick, very old or very young.
  • After touching another person's intact skin, especially if they have a cold or are sick.
  • After removing medical gloves.
  • Whenever you want to decontaminate hands.

St. Joseph's Hospital encourages all of our patients and visitors to ask their health care provider or any employee of our hospital if they have washed their hands!