HSE mark World Hand Hygiene Day

Hand hygiene: let’s keep the habit 

Today (Thursday 5th May 2022) the HSE is marking Hand Hygiene Day in conjunction with the World Health Organization’s Hand Hygiene Day around the world.  

Dr Eimear Brannigan, HSE Clinical Lead for Antibiotic Resistance and Infection Control says, “Most years when Hand Hygiene Day comes around we try to think of ways to talk to people about the importance of hand hygiene in preventing infection. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we all understand that hand hygiene has had a major part to play in all our lives. We know that since the COVID-19 pandemic a lot of people are very aware of the importance of hand hygiene and are cleaning their hands regularly. Many viruses and bugs can’t get through your skin but if the bug is on your hand when you put your hand to your eye, mouth or nose you can catch infection. This is why hand hygiene plays an important part in stopping the spread of COVID-19 infection, as well as preventing many other infections that are still out there.”

“Department of Health research undertaken throughout the pandemic shows that 96% of people washed their hands more often as a result of COVID-19.  Importantly, 90% of people say that they will continue to clean their hands frequently. However we also know that people tend to go back to their old habits when a crisis starts to get better so it is vitally important that we all understand that hand hygiene is not just for COVID-19 it’s for life.”

“I would encourage any shops, education facilities, hospitality services to keep up the good work in relation to hand hygiene.  Having sanitiser and access to hand washing facilities will make it easier for staff, students and customers to maintain their good hand hygiene habits.”

Dr. Edel Doorley, a Dublin based GP and AMRIC team member says, “All GPs have seen a decrease in the numbers of people who are suffering from respiratory infections.  We have had very few flu infections compared to the winters before COVID-19.  Many parents will identify with the fact that their young children have not had the 6 - 10 viral illnesses they normally get every year.  Hand hygiene plays a major part in this.  We want people to keep on going with their hand hygiene, help your children to learn good hand hygiene and help us to stop the spread of COVID-19 and other infections.”

Have a look at the video on proper hand washing. We often think we have washed our hands properly but have a look at this short experiment and you will be surprised.

Tips for stopping infections spreading at home

The goal is to find a good balance between keeping your hands clean when it’s most important without limiting your enjoyment of life.  Particularly important times to wash your hand are:

·       If you were in contact with someone who has COVID-19, a fever or respiratory symptoms (cough, shortness of breath, difficulty breathing)

·       Before and after visiting someone in a hospital or residential setting

·       When you have been in contact with a person or an animal with an infection

·       When you get back to your home from being out and about or at work, especially if your work involves a lot of contact with people or animals

·       Before starting to prepare or handle food

·       After touching raw meat including poultry

·       Before eating food

·       After using the toilet and after changing nappies

·       Before and after being in a crowd (especially an indoor crowd)

·       After touching  animals or animal waste

Regular use of a hand moisturiser will protect your hands from the drying effects of hand hygiene products. If you have dry skin or a skin condition, apply moisturiser after washing and drying your hands.

Be wary of the technology…

Computers, phones and mobiles are a constant in lives, we can’t work without them. But how clean are they?   Research has shown that PCs, keyboards, phones are full of bacteria – a mouse has an average of 260 bacteria per centimetre squared, a keyboard has 511 and the mouthpiece of a telephone has an impressive 3,895!  Make sure you clean your tech equipment even if you are working from home during the COVID19 pandemic. And remember to clean your hands.

The toilet is fine - but watch out for the handles, taps and air hand dryers…

The real danger is not the toilet but the handles and taps.   Don’t touch the toilet seat with your hands if it’s visibly dirty.  Our skin acts as a protective barrier when we use the toilet - it is the largest organ in the human body.  Drying your hands with paper towel will reduce the bacterial count by 45 – 60% on your hands. However, using some hand dryers can  increase the bacteria on your hands by up to 255% because they can  blow out bacteria already living in the, conveniently, warm moist environment.

Get more information

There are lots of tips on hand hygiene on www.hse.ie/handhygiene and you can learn all about bacteria on www.e-bug.eu  a teaching/ learning resource for schools and colleges (and parents!).  On ebug you can find out about bugs through quizzes, games and home science experiments.  Try them out – you’ll be surprised

Last updated on: 05 / 05 / 2022