Wash these diseases away and prevent the spread of germs
Posted on 1 July 2019
Make sure your hand hygiene is up to scratch to prevent the spread of germs (like bacteria and viruses) that cause illness. Christine Smedley, Infection Prevention and Control Co-ordinator: Mediclinic SA, explains.
Many infectious diseases are spread simply because people don’t clean their contaminated hands properly, or often enough. These diseases include gastrointestinal and respiratory infections, such as the common cold and influenza. Some of these infections can cause serious complications, especially for young children, the elderly, or those with a weakened immune system.
The good news is; there’s a simple way to minimise your risk of getting sick.
“One of the most important aspects of reducing the risk of transmission of micro-organisms is to perform correct hand hygiene,” says Christine Smedley, Infection Prevention and Control Co-ordinator: Mediclinic SA. “Hand hygiene is one of the most effective and easiest ways to prevent the spread of infections from one person to another.”
Here are some of the illnesses you could avoid by performing hand hygiene regularly. Hand hygiene can be performed either by washing hands with soap and water or by using an alcohol-based handrub with at least 70% alcohol content.
Respiratory illnesses such as those caused by the common cold viruses, SARS-CoV-2, seasonal influenza and Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) are spread via droplets when someone who has the illness coughs or sneezes, dispersing droplets into the air which is inhaled. “Transmission of viruses may also occur when respiratory secretions that fall onto surfaces are transmitted by hands to mucous membranes (by rubbing your eyes or nose)” Smedley cautions. Performing hand hygiene reduces the risk.
Patients in hospital are more susceptible to infections if they are already compromised by an illness or comorbidities. In addition, invasive interventions (such as surgery or insertion of catheters) may be required as part of their treatment.
Are you washing your hands effectively?
- Wet your hands with clean, running water. Use warm or cold water. “Hot water may contribute to dermatitis, which prevents effective hand hygiene being performed,” Smedley warns.
- Apply soap and lather by rubbing your hands together. “Be sure to rub the backs of your hands, between fingers your and palms, as well as interlocking your fingers to rub your nails,” she says.
- Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water, and then dry them using a clean towel or disposable paper towel.
When to wash your hands
You should wash your hands thoroughly:
- After using the toilet or changing nappies
- Before, during and after preparing food
- Between handling raw and cooked or ready-to-eat food
- Before eating
- After using a tissue or handkerchief
- Before and after attending to sick children or other family members.
- After smoking
- After handling rubbish or working in the garden
- After handling animals