Hand Hygiene

Dr M K Mam
As the whole world is fighting the pandemic Corona virus, lot has been and is being said and written about its preventionin electronic, print , social media etc. Prevention we all know is always better especially in such an infection where we do not have a proved treatment or a vaccine to prevent it. We all appreciate our worthy prime minister,who has very rightly been in the forefront to lead, educate and involve the people about the things that can be done to prevent its spread. He did speak about the magnitude of the problem and the steps like keeping social distance, staying inside our homes etc. , that we should take to prevent it’s spread With this in mind, I thought to write about hand hygiene, which is of utmost importance for the prevention and spread of an infection like pandemic Corona infection which wepresently are facing and fighting.
Hands are one of the essential parts of the body. We use our hands in most of the day to day activities,whether it is at home or office or shopping etc. etc. We use our hands to touch people, objects and surfaces etc. As such, hands remain exposed to outer atmosphere most of the times.It is a fact that germs are everywhere, however we cannot see them. As a matter of fact , hands get exposed to the germsand there occurs accumulation of germs on the hands. Germs like bacteria and viruses are microscopic and are not visible to the naked eye. Germs make us sick. It is also a fact that we frequently touch our face, nose , eyes, mouth etc. with our hands, consciously or unconsciously. It is somehow a habit with most of us and certainly it is not a good one.We very often do it, without realising that we can infect ourselves and others . As such, keeping our hands clean is very important. It is one of the simple steps which we can take to avoid spread of germs- virus and getting sick. Research says that about 80% of the communicable diseases can be transferred by hands. A number of infectious diseases like Corona can be spread from one person to another by contaminated hands. Proper hand washing can protect us and others from the infection. It prevents and controls spread of infection from one person to another. Hand hygiene is in fact the corner stone of prevention of infection. Good hand hygiene prevents spread of viral and bacterial infections from person to person. Improper and inadequate hand hygiene practice is known to increase chances of infection and getting sick.As such we need to wash our hands regularly. Frequent hand washing is certainly an easiest method to avoid falling sick and spread of infection especially when there is an epidemic of corona virus..
How to wash our hands:
We all do hand washing , yes we all do it. Is it done properly? Answer is big NO. Hand washing, what we do in routine, is so called a social hand washing.It just removes the dirt, organic matter and may be some of the transient organisms. Research has shown thatabout 20 seconds of vigorous hand washing with soap and water cleans the hand, kills most of the germs from the hand.Unfortunately very few people do it, the way it should be done. Right way is – i) Wet your hands with clean running water andturn off the tap ii)Apply soap and lather well rubbing the hands together all aroundfor 20 seconds. All surfaces of hands including areas in between the fingers, thumbs, palms , back of the hands and then the most contaminated part i.e. under the finger nails have to be cleaned iii) Rinse the hands well in clean running water so that all the soap is removed.iv)Dry the hands properly with a clean towel. We need to remove the rings or any jewellery worn on hands when we wash our hands
When to wash our hands:
We as a routine wash our hands when they are dirty. Again we wash our hands before eating and preparing the food.We should also wash our hands beforecaring for a sick person or treating the wounds , inserting or removal of contact lenses. Again we do wash our hands after using toilet or changing diaper and handling the garbage. It has been found that many of the people do not wash their hands well before leaving the toilet. We need to do it properly as it is all in our interest. We should also wash our hands aftercaring for a sick person or treating a wound ,touching an animal, animal waste ,blowing noseand handling a pet.Again, mobile phones which certainly are an essential part of our daily life,are shown to be highly contaminated. They carry lot of germs and viruses, so we need to be careful while handling them.We need to clean them regularly with cleaning liquids. Again currency notes and coins, all of us love to have more of them, are highly contaminated with germs. As such we need to be very careful not to touch our mouth , eyes etc. while handling them. Hand hygiene is a must for health care workers- doctors,nurses, other paramedical staff etc., as it is the most important measure to prevent transmission of very harmful germs especially the hospital borne infections that are usually resistant to commonly available antimicrobialsand as such are very difficult to treat.More frequent or over washing or use of too much of hand sanitiser mayat times cause dryness of skin of hand with cracks in skin that can allow organisms to enter body. This can be prevented by using moisturising creams or lotions to our hands.
Hand washing other options:
Hand sanitisers preferably alcohol based- alcohol hand rub can be used when hand washing with soap and water is not within the reach.We need to use plenty of sanitiser . It is faster, effective and better tolerated, however the hands should not be visibly dirty or soiled.Again, hand washing with soap and water should be the preferred method after using the toilet. It won’t be out of place to mention that when properly done hand washing with soap and water is certainly a simple and an effective option of hand hygiene.
(The author is Formerly, Vice Principal , Prof and Head Orthopaedics, C M C, Ludhiana)