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HealthInfo Canterbury

Hand hygiene

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Hand hygiene refers to cleaning your hands with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand rub. Hand hygiene is the single most important way of stopping harmful germs (bacteria and viruses) spreading and causing infections.

Why is hand hygiene so important?

Everyone has germs. Our bodies are covered with germs that help us stay healthy. As well as germs that are usually on our skin, we also pick up germs from contact with other people or objects in our surroundings.

Germs are easy to pick up and transfer, so they can cause you, or others, to get sick. Although many people think that germs are spread through the air, they are most easily spread through hand contact.

One of the best ways to stop germs spreading is to clean your hands. You can wash your hands with soap and water, or decontaminate your hands with hand rub.

The friction of rubbing your hands together when washing your hands helps to physically remove the germs.

Alcohol-based hand rubs kill many more germs than soap and water and dry out your skin less.

When should I clean my hands?

You should always clean your hands:

How to clean your hands correctly

Click the images below to open or download posters showing how to clean your hands with soap and water, or with hand rub.

How to handwash

How to handrub

Avoid getting sick

Regular hand hygiene, particularly before and after the activities listed above, is one of the best ways to avoid getting sick. It also stops germs spreading to others. It's quick, it's simple, and it can keep us all from getting sick. Hand hygiene is a win for everyone, except the germs.

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by the Hand Hygiene Governance Group, Canterbury DHB. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated October 2017.

Sources

See also:

Diarrhoea and vomiting

Norovirus

Skin infections

Page reference: 227175

Review key: HIHYG-227175