As a child you were probably reminded constantly to wash your hands before coming to the dinner table. You might have grumbled on doing so with hunger pangs driving you to rush the process – a quick lather, rinse, and wipe on the hand towel, good enough, now let’s eat.
Today, hand washing is still just as important and even more critical as a preventative measure for infection control coupled with wearing disposable gloves. The germs of yesteryear remain with us with the myriad of bacteria and viruses possessing an innate and crafty ability to multiply. Their primary mission is to seek out a host organism, take up residence, and turn on their replication machinery, oftentimes at the detriment of their host’s health and welfare. Even our own flora of skin and intestinal bacteria, bearing beneficial properties, can mount an attack and disrupt organ function when our immune system is compromised.
And now with the prevalent use (and abuse) of antibiotics, both inside and outside of medicine over the past 60 years, the so-called bacterial “superbugs” have emerged through mutation with resistance to specific families of conventional antibiotic drugs. What is our best defense against these superbugs? The common answer for infection control is personal protective equipment and hand hygiene (along with disinfecting contaminated surfaces). So, it’s back to the call of washing hands with soap and water, as simple as that may seem, to minimize our susceptibility to germ invasion and infection. And what about hand sanitizers? Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are okay when your hands aren’t visibly dirty, but are not as effective.
While there are a number of websites that campaign for hand hygiene, the World Health Organization offers a free poster with an illustrated, eleven-step process on thorough hand cleaning.
So, no skimping to rush to the break room table—as this poster states, “Save Lives – Clean Your Hands."