A Simpler Way to Stay Healthy – Hand Washing

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. Happy Birthday. Mary Had a Little Lamb. Which tune do you hum when you wash your hands? No matter your trick, I’m sure you know the importance of Hand Hygiene. The big question is: are you properly washing your hands? Or are you part of the 29% of Americans who do not wash their hands regularly? Eww!

That statistic is just in everyday life, what about in the healthcare field?

Studies show that, on average, healthcare providers clean their hands less than half of the times they should. CDC recommends they clean their hands before and after touching every patient. When these hand hygiene recommendations are not followed, both providers and patients are at risk of serious infections.

As a patient, here is what you should know about hand hygiene:

  1. On average, healthcare providers clean their hands less than half of the times they should.  Ask your healthcare team questions. On your next visit to the doctor’s office or hospital, kindly remind your doctor to clean their hands before they begin. Watching your healthcare team wash their hands is the only way to guarantee they have done so recently.
  2. Remember, your hands can spread germs too! You and your visitors should clean hands at these important times:
  • Before touching doorknobs
  • After touching bed rails, bedside tables, remote controls, or the phone
  • Before touching eyes, nose, or mouth
  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Before and after changing bandages
  • Before eating (use soap and water)
  • After using the restroom (use soap and water)
  1. Soap is key. Washing your hands with soap removes germs much more effectively than using water alone. The compounds, called surfactants, in soap help remove soil and microbes from your skin. You also tend to scrub your hands more thoroughly when you use soap, which also helps to remove germs.
  2. It takes longer than you might think. While optimal length of time to wash your hands depends on what is on your hands, evidence suggests that washing your hands for about 15–30 seconds removes more germs than washing for shorter periods. CDC recommends washing your hands for about 20 seconds, or the time it takes to hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice from beginning to end. So I’ll ask again, what tune do you hum when washing your hands?
  3. Don’t forget to dry. Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands, so you should dry your hands with a clean towel after washing.

Keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to the people around you.