Our hands are our primary tool for just about everything. We touch objects, each other, and ourselves thousands of times a day.
As we go about our lives, germs accumulate on our hands from the things we touch. When we then touch our nose, mouth, or eyes, the germs from our hands can find their way into our bodies and cause infections.
So it’s not surprising then, that it’s estimated up to 80% of common infections are spread by our hands. According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, proper hand hygiene can prevent one in five respiratory infections, such as a cold or the flu.
Hand hygiene in hospitals, schools, and aged care
It’s vitally important for caregivers in hospitals, schools, kindergartens, aged care settings, or anywhere with lots of people touching push doors to practice exceptional hand hygiene. Kids spread germs easily, often bringing bugs back home for family members to share!
Additionally, when caring for sick people or the elderly, opportunistic germs can easily spread from one patient to another. This cross-contamination can make the healing process much harder for already immune-compromised patients. It may even become life-threatening, certainly in the current COVID-19 climate.
So what does good hand hygiene look like?
● Applying an alcohol-based hand sanitiser to the hands, and rub for 15 seconds making sure to include fingers, front-and-back, nails, and wrists. Gels, foams, and liquids can all provide quick and convenient disinfection.
● Washing using either non-microbial or antimicrobial soap for 20 seconds, achieving a good lather and paying attention to the backs of hands, wrists, between fingers underneath fingernails. Rinse well, and dry using a single disposable paper towel.
Washing with soap and water is the ‘gold standard’ for reducing microorganisms on the hands and wrists. When soap and water is not readily available or practical, alcohol-based hand sanitisers are a convenient and effective way to promote good hand hygiene.
It’s important to note however, that sanitisers do not remove dirt or other substances from visibly soiled hands - rinsing hands first is necessary to remove the unwanted material.
Achieving 100% hand hygiene compliance in healthcare and learning facilities
Hospitals and aged care facilities alike are high-traffic areas where nursing staff, other facility workers (such as cleaners or visiting professionals), and the public all present heightened risk of bringing in bacteria from outside, as well as transporting pathogens around when inside the facility.
Additionally, schools and kindergartens are also high-traffic areas where teachers, kids, and family members all use the same doors to move around... sometimes carrying external germs in with them!
A large part of the risk of infection in high traffic facilities exists in the surfaces we don’t even think about touching. Numerous studies have found that door handles and push plates are prime sources of microbial contamination.1
Although regular cleaning of door handles certainly reduces bacteria, even with regular cleaning, bacteria can still be detected on handles, and therefore easily passed from one person to another.
While hand washing and gel dispensers clean hands, as soon as a new surface is touched, there’s a risk of being contaminated by a previous user.
Certainly in high traffic areas such as lobbies, hallways, wards, and entrances / exits, there is no practical way to disinfect door handles in between uses. But it only takes one person with germs on their hands to deposit those germs on a door handle that is then used by hundreds of others, creating a chain of infection.
Breaking the chain of infection
An effective new way to reduce cross-contamination risk from high-touch areas such as door handles and push pads is a self-disinfecting device called Surfaceskins.
Engineered by infection control experts and materials scientists, Surfaceskins have been developed and validated over the last 5 years in certain NHS hospitals and schools in the UK.
Surfaceskins release alcohol gel that disinfects the surface in seconds, killing germs and protecting the next user passing through the door.
They fit over the existing plate or surface, snapping into place and delivering heightened protection to each user of the door or surface. While they don’t technically clean hands, they do kill deposited germs and bacteria in the vital seconds between one person passing through a door to the next.
Complimented with proper - and vigilant - hand hygiene, Surfaceskins help reduce the risk of healthcare-associated infections in the places where people are at their most vulnerable.
Where to get more information
Keystone Healthcare are distributors of Surfaceskins in Australia. To discuss implementing an extra layer of infection control in your healthcare facility, get in touch with us on 1300 547 877.
1. Wojgani et al. (2012) PLoS ONE 7(10): e40171.