Did you know that October 15 is Global Handwashing Day? (1) That’s this Saturday, folks. This does not mean you should wait until Saturday to wash your hands, either. A hygienist can’t emphasize more why is handwashing important. Aside from the obvious reasons about not spreading germs and being polite and not getting sick (need I go on?) handwashing also is, “simple and inexpensive”(1) and can “prevent about 1 out of every 3 episodes of diarrheal illnesses and almost 1 out of 6 episodes of respiratory infection like pneumonia”(1).
Global Handwashing day has been observed since 2008. (2) Now, you may notice that in the practice we are no longer routinely washing our hands with soap prior to clinical procedures. This is because, in health care, handwashing has been replaced with ABHR. What is ABHR? It stands for alcohol-based hand rub(s). Clinical guidelines from the ADA (who cite Hand Hygiene Australia)(3), CDC(4), and the WHO(5) now all prefer that healthcare people use ABHRs instead of the constant handwashing of yesteryear. I actually wasn’t taught to use ABHRs in University, we were still using soap and water and heaps of paper towels. Which may be dating me J The distinction between hand washing with soap and the use of ABHR can be summed up shortly:
A) Soap and water are used at the beginning of the day and when hands are visibly soiled or after breaks, trips to the toilet, etc.
B) ABHRs are used before and after touching a patient, before and after donning or removing gloves and before and after a patient surrounding are touched.
So, we are using ABHRs lots these days. I would encourage you to get good and soapy this weekend—after all, that’s what Saturday is for!!