When to wash your hands in hospital

When to wash your hands in hospital

It’s no secret that good hand hygiene is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. Yet, some people are shy to discuss hand hygiene with their healthcare providers.

In Canada, one in nine patients will develop an infection during their hospital stay. Many of these infections can be easily prevented through proper hand hygiene in the hospital. While healthcare providers have a big role to play in helping to prevent the spread of germs to their patients, germs can also be spread by patients on their own hands.

At Hamilton Health Sciences, many teams have initiated hand hygiene promotion initiatives that encourage open communication between patient and caregiver around hand hygiene. The key message? That it’s okay to ask your healthcare provider if they’ve remembered to clean their hands.

For visitors coming to the hospital, we recommend cleaning your hands at the stations on the way in, before entering the patient’s room, and again when you leave.

The 5 most important times to wash your hands in hospital

If you or a loved one is in hospital, it’s important for you to know the five most important times to wash your hands:

1. Before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
2. Before eating or handling food.
3. After coughing or sneezing (it’s best to cough into a tissue or your sleeve)
4. Before entering shared spaces and when returning to your/your loved one’s room.
5. After using the washroom or a commode.

Hand washing explained by infection control specialists

Hand hygiene technique is easy to learn. It is probably one of the most important things people in the community and patients, visitors, and health care providers can do to protect themselves and others.

The preferred method of hand hygiene in a health care setting is to use alcohol-based hand rub. It’s important to rub it in all areas: the backs of your hands, in between your fingers, your finger tips, your thumbs and to perform that for at least 15 seconds (or long enough to sing Happy Birthday!).

If your hands are visibly soiled, you should use soap and water. Lather them with soap for at least 15-20 seconds, covering all areas of your hands, rinsing, and patting dry with a piece of paper towel (and turning off the tap with that piece of paper towel).

Watch this video to see what happens when you don’t wash your hands properly.