Over the past few months, we all have been constantly hearing that frequently wash hands protect ourselves and those around us from the coronavirus. Additionally, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), washing your hands is the most effective way to prevent the spread of diseases. Although it may be simple to use hand sanitizer or wear gloves, hand-washing is the best way to keep yourself and others healthy and reduce the likelihood of getting sick. But, it’s not enough just to wash your hands. It is important to practice proper hand hygiene to avoid spreading diseases.

We want to debunk some misconceptions on hand-washing and provide tips on proper hand-washing hygiene.

Here are some common myths that you may have heard:

The hotter the water, the more effective it is for killing germs.

According to the CDC the temperature of the water does not appear to affect germ removal. However hotter water may cause skin irritation, water temperature should be comfortable around 95° F-115° F will be effective enough to properly wash your hands.

As long as soap is used, doesn’t matter how long you wash your hands.

The length of time for hand-washing can depend on many factors including the type and amount of contamination.  The CDC indicates that the optimal length of time to wash hands is for at least twenty (20) seconds or the time it takes to hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice making sure to scrub the entire hand including under the nails.

Antibacterial soap can be used less often than regular soap.

Soap and friction help remove dirt, grease, and germs from the skin so they can be rinsed off from your hands. According to the CDC, there is no indication that using antibacterial soap outside of the health care setting is more effective than using plain soap.

Hand sanitizer is a better replacement to washing your hands.

The use of hand sanitizer is a better alternative when out and don’t have access to a sink to not washing your hands at all. However, hand sanitizer does not fully kill germs the way handwashing does. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% alcohol.

As we enter to the height of flu season and the numbers for COVID-19 infection continue to climb, hand-washing is more important than ever to help prevent the spread. UofL Health wants everyone to remain safe by practicing good hand hygiene and continuing to take necessary precautions to be healthy.

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Kathy Trail, BS Ed, BSN, RN, CIC

Kathy Trail, BS Ed, BSN, RN, CIC, has been with UofL Health for four years and is the manager of Infection Control and Prevention at Mary & Elizabeth Hospital and Peace Hospital. She serves as social media liaison for the local chapter of APIC and holds a certification in infection control.

All posts by Kathy Trail, BS Ed, BSN, RN, CIC
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