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Rub hands together vigorously for at least 15 seconds (sing Happy Birthday twice)

Be sure to wash all surfaces of hands including nail beds and areas between fingers

WASH hands (as opposed to using alcohol products) whenever hands are visibly soiled, when they feel sticky from lotions, or when caring for patients with C. difficile diarrhea.

For your safety, perform hand hygiene often and sanitize equipment such as pagers and stethoscopes that are easily contaminated by frequent touching. Hand lotion available in clinical areas is compatible with the soaps that we use in patient care areas. Use this lotion rather than your own personal lotion to protect skin while at work.  We encourage patients and families to ask all healthcare providers whether they have washed/sanitized their hands before they begin providing care. Don’t be surprised if patients ask you about hand hygiene. The correct answer is either, “Thanks for reminding me.” Or “Thanks, I just used the alcohol gel before coming in.” If there’s any doubt, play it safe and do it again! This contributes to safe care and improved patient satisfaction. The best approach: Use the alcohol rub or wash your hands as you enter the patient’s room. Patients really DO notice this.

Alcohol Hand Gels vs. Soap and Water: Why not Mix?

If hands are wet when you apply alcohol based products, the alcohol will penetrate deeper into the dermal layers and may cause irritation. Avoid using alcohol gels when hands are still wet/damp from soap and water washing.

If you apply alcohol gels, let hands dry completely. When you wash alcohol gel away with water, you also lose the oils that protect your skin from drying out. Once the alcohol dries, the oils from your skin remain in place to protect your skin.

If hands feel sticky after several applications of alcohol gel, wash with soap and water. Continue to use alcohol until they feel sticky, and then wash with soap and water again.

Tips for Success with Hand Hygiene in Winter:

Use alcohol gels when possible. Studies show that alcohol products are less drying to hand skin.

Friction from paper towels, used with soap and water, can be very drying and damaging to skin, so use alcohol unless hands are soiled or sticky, or the patient is assumed to have C. difficile infection.

Use lotion to protect skin. Lotion should be available on your unit, and use lotion at home as well.

When washing hands with soap and water, make sure the water is warm, not too hot or cold. Extreme temperatures can be damaging to skin.


March 17, 2009

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