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Hand hygiene is very crucial in controlling infections. The increasing severity of illnesses, multi-drug resistant pathogens and complexity of treatment methods are making basic preventions like hand hygiene essential in our day-to-day lives. This is because hand hygiene is very important to prevent cross-transmission of infection among patients and healthcare workers.
This article will answer your questions regarding hand hygiene.
1. What Is Hand Hygiene?
Ans: Hand hygiene refers to the way of cleaning one's hands to reduce harmful and potential pathogens. According to a study, people touch their face around 23 times in an hour. Among these, 44 per cent are involved in touching mucous membranes such as eyes, nose and mouth while 56 per cent on non-mucosal areas. 
As we know that mucous membranes are the main route in the transmission of many infectious diseases, it is important to maintain hand hygiene to break the transmission cycle and colonisation of pathogens.
2. Why Is Hand Hygiene Essential For Healthcare Workers?
Ans: The hands of healthcare workers usually contain pathogens such as MDR-Gram Negative bacteria, methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and Candida albicans. These pathogens can survive on the hand surface for up to 150 hours. Microorganisms up to 10 layers of skin epithelial cells are shed daily from the normal skin to objects/fomites like furniture, gowns and bed. This may lead to increased cross-transmission of pathogens from the hands of the healthcare workers. This calls out the importance of hand hygiene among them. 
3. What Is The Best Way To Clean Hands?
Ans: According to the CDC, hands can be cleaned in two ways: soap and water and alcohol-based hand rubs. Cleaning hands with soap and water is the primary and effective way for hand cleaning but it comes with many challenges like unavailability of sinks, water and dry towels.
On the other hand, alcohol-based hand rubs or sanitisers are good for routine medical examination or non-surgical procedures. Sanitisers containing around 60-95 per cent alcohol is considered the best for many clinical uses as they kill germs with the same potential as soap and water, they less time-taking and they do not require sinks. They are the best alternative to clean hands unless they are soiled with dirt, body fluids or blood.
4. When To Perform Hand Hygiene?
Ans: Hand hygiene is important all the time. However, it is considered mandatory during these situations.
- Before and after touching a patient.
- Before performing a surgical procedure.
- After touching objects or instruments that may be contaminated with sick individuals' saliva, blood or respiratory secretions.
- After direct contact with patients' bodily fluids.
- After performing a dental examination.
- Before and after wearing gloves, which are either torn or punctured.
- When hands are visibly dirty with dirt or blood. 
5. How To Handwash With Soap And Water?
Ans: As per the WHO and CDC guidelines, the best way to wash hands is washing them with soap and water.
- Wet hands in running cold/warm water.
- Apply enough soap to cover all wet surfaces.
- Rub hands for at least for 20 seconds - including palm to palm, back of the hands, under nails and between fingers.
- Rinse hands with water.
- Dry them with a single-use towel or paper towel.
- Avoid air-drying as it may cause the residual pathogens on hands to scatter on the surrounding surfaces such as door knobs.
6. How To Sanitise Hands With Alcohol-based Hand Rubs?
Ans: Here is the step-by-step guide to sanitise hands with alcohol-based hand rubs:
- Pour out the recommended amount of sanitiser in one palm.
- Rub it on both the hands.
- Apply it all over the surfaces of your palms including the back of the hand, between fingers and under nails.
- No rinsing with water is required.
- Avoid going near the heat or holding any warm object after using it as there are chances of catching fire.
7. What Factors Affect The Compliance To Hand Hygiene?
Ans: The factors which affect the compliance to hand
- hygiene are as follows:
- Unawareness or forgetfulness of the importance of hand hygiene.
- Insufficient time, especially for healthcare workers.
- Wearing gloves and ignoring the need for hand hygiene.
- Dryness or irritation of the hands caused due to handwashing agents.
- Shortage of sinks, soaps and water.
- Far location of the sinks.
- A wrong belief of low risk of getting infected from patients.
- Lack of role models in institutions such as superiors or colleagues.
Following a simple and basic protocol is the best way to prevent the spread of the infection with hand hygiene been on the top-most list. Hand hygiene practice should be applied in our daily lives so that we can set an example for many people around us and keep many diseases under control.
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