Handwashing

HANDWASHING

Ok so with COVID-19 worries around at the moment I thought I would share with you my own guide to hand washing.

Hand washing is an important part of my practice anyway and I learnt how to affectively wash my hands as part of my Vet Nurse training. Anybody who is wanting to become a vet nurse, vet physio or vet surgeon must learn the correct hand washing technique in order to prevent the spread of infection between patients (and potentially to yourselves).

As a vet nurse I learnt the 7 step method developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and used by medical professionals across the globe including in the NHS.

Why?

Currently little is known about COVID-19 but like most viruses COVID-19 has a lipid outer layer structure which is quickly broken down by regular soap and water. This kills the virus and prevents it from spreading to yourself or anywhere else. Soap and water is most effective however hand cleansers can also be used if you are out but they need to contain at least 60% alcohol to be effective. If you are using hand sanitiser you can still use the same hand washing method.

Viruses are easily spread through contact so all those objects which are regularly touched by lots of people, think door handles, card readers, light switches etc are all high risk places to pick up a virus. Once on these surfaces viruses can survive up to 3 weeks. Although the virus cannot get through our skin easily it can easily be transmitted into the body when we eat something or touch our face. This is why regular hand washing is important in preventing the spread of disease.

How?

The following steps will show you how to complete the WHO 7 step hand washing method.

Step 1:

Firstly ensure that you remove all jewellery and nail polish as bacteria can get trapped under these surfaces.

Roll up your sleeves and wet hands with water. Then apply enough soap to cover both hand surfaces.

(Tip: if you are keeping the tap running make sure that you first set the temperature to a tepid heat ready for rinsing)

Step 2:

Rub hands in a circular motion palm to palm

Step 3:

Place one hand over the top of the other with both palms facing down with the fingers interlacing. Rub between the fingers. Once done switch sides.

Step 4:

Place hands palm to palm and rub with fingers interlaced.

Step 5:

Place the backs of you fingers to the opposing palm with the fingers interlocked.

Step 6:

Clean the left thumb by rubbing in a rotational method with the right palm and repeat with the right thumb.

Step 7:

Clasp the fingers of your right hand and rub in a rotational method backwards and forwards and repeat with the other hand.

Finally rinse your hands and dry (ideally with a single use towel). Use the towel to turn off the tap and your hands are now clean!

Remember that you need to wash your hands for at least 30 seconds for the hand cleansing to be effective. It is recommended that 2 verses of Happy Birthday should be sufficient and if you think that takes a long time I had to learn to surgically scrub for operations which takes 10 minuets!

How Often

The current guidelines recommend hand washing:

  • Before, during and after preparing food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for anyone who has vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Before and after treating a cut to wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing nappies or cleaning a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal, animal feed or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage or going to an outdoor bin.

This is fairly regularly and often if you are trying to prevent disease another time to wash your hands would be before going to visit someone who is very young, elderly or has a compromised immune system.

One important point to note is that although you need to regularly wash your hands don’t go overboard. Washing your hands too frequently will damage your skin and break the all important skin barrier actually making you more at risk of developing an infection or catching a disease. So if you are washing you hands regularly remember to also apply hand creams to keep your skin moisturised and healthy.

For further information on COVID-19 you can visit the NHS website here. For up to date information about COVID-19 across the world then you can visit the WHO website here and to find out further information on hand washing visit the WHO guidance here.

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