Sunday, October 16, 2011

Wash 'em Hands!

By Diane Forrest, RN

Wash Your Hands!!!!!  How many times have you heard your mother say that?  Hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infection.  Washing your hands before or after eating or cooking meals is essential to prevent the spread of diseases such as e coli or the common cold.  I always had to laugh when I watched the television show Monk.  He was so paranoid about getting any type of disease or infection that he always used a hand wipe after touching anything.  This is a bit extreme and the constant use of antibacterial soaps could in fact be harmful and causing the growth of "Super bugs" that are becoming harder to kill with antibiotics.

Infections are spread by many ways.  These include:
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Touching food with dirty hands will also allow viruses or bacteria from the intestine to spread.
  • Shaking hands with someone who has a cold or virus
  • Body fluids, such as blood, saliva and semen, can contain the infecting organisms and transmission of such fluids, for example by injection or sexual contact, is important, particularly for viral infections.

Ways to prevent the spread of infections include:
  • Wash your hands thoroughly (often one of the best ways to avoid catching a cold).
  •  Shaking hands with someone who has a cold is risky, so avoid rubbing your eyes or nose afterwards.
  • Food should be cooked or cooled down as quickly as possible.
  • Vegetables and meat must be stored separately and prepared on separate chopping boards.
  • Meat should preferably be served well-done.
  • Remember that food with these invisible organisms does not necessarily smell bad.
  • Use a condom during sexual intercourse to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.

The hospital or health care setting is a breeding ground for infections.  One of the first things you are taught is how to protect yourself from becoming infected as well as transmitting infections.  You are instructed on sterile techniques, hand washing techniques and safety precautions.  In some areas of practice within the hospital you have to scrub your hands for 5 minutes using a betadine solution, scrub brush and a nail cleaner.  It is also a requirement to wash your hands before and after entering each room.  These days they have the cans of antibacterial foam outside each room, however I still prefer old fashion soap and water.

There are also eye shields, face masks and even infection control rooms or isolation rooms that have their own ventilation systems and you are required to put on gloves, gowns, masks and shoe covers to prevent the spread of infection.

This week is Infection Prevention Week.  You can do your part by washing your hands, cover your mouth if coughing or sneezing, if you have a fever, stay home oh...and did I mention wash your hands?

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