The NHS is encouraging everyone, particularly children and those visiting hospitals and care homes, to adopt good hand hygiene this winter.
Winter months see the spread of colds, flu and norovirus (sickness and diarrhea) through touching surfaces as we go about our daily business, and then touching our mouths or food that we eat.
Adopting good hand hygiene reduces the risk of spread which is particularly important when we’re visiting friends or relatives in hospital, the elderly at their home or when we’re around very young children.
The best way to wash hands is with soap and warm water, paying attention to fingers, thumbs, under nails and wrists. Drying hands properly is just as important, as damp hands can harbour germs.
Germs can live on some surfaces for hours, meaning they can be easily transferred to others. It’s important that we do all we can to try and protect vulnerable patients in our hospitals, particularly those who may have impaired immunity, as well as those in the community so they don’t end up being admitted. If you see signs asking you to clean your hands before you enter a ward please do so. But getting into the routine of good hand hygiene will help all year round, not just for winter.
Parents are being reminded to make sure little ones are taught how to clean their hands properly, particularly if they’re around grandparents or friends and relatives that are ill.
Good hygiene means:
- Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and put the tissue in the bin straight away – don’t save it to re-use later. If you don’t have a tissue cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow rather than your hands.
- Wash hands with soap and warm water. This will remove the majority of germs, preventing spread to other people. Studies show that hand-washing techniques are often poor and the most commonly neglected areas are the tips of the fingers, palm of the hand, and the thumb.
- Use alcohol hand rub if you are visiting someone in hospital. This should be rubbed into all areas of the hands, again paying attention to the thumbs, fingertips, between the fingers and the backs of the hands until the hands feel dry. But it’s important to know this won’t help with norovirus – soap and water is best.
For more information about winter illness, visit www.nhs.uk/staywell