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APIC Infection Control Tips on Hand Washing
Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) is a multi-disciplinary (nurses, epidemiologists, physicians, etc.), voluntary, international organization. APIC's purpose is to influence, support, and improve the quality of health care through the practice and management of infection control and the application of epidemiology (study of disease in the population) in all health care settings. APIC is committed to improve patient care, to prevent adverse outcomes, and to minimize occupational hazards associated with the delivery of health care.
- Hand washing is the single most important procedure for preventing healthcare acquired infections.
- Just from contact with body secretions, health care workers' hands can carry bacteria, viruses, and fungi, which may be potentially infectious to themselves and others.
- Hand washing is recommended when there is prolonged and intense contact with any patient.
- Hand washing is necessary before and after situations where hands are likely to become contaminated, especially when hands have had contact with mucous membranes, blood and body fluids, and secretions or excretions, and after touching contaminated items such as urine-measuring devices.
- As a general rule, when in doubt, health care workers should wash and dry their hands.
- The generally accepted correct hand washing time and method is a 15-second vigorous rubbing together of all lathered surfaces, followed by rinsing in a flowing stream of water. If hands are visibly soiled, more time may be required.
- The choice of plain or antiseptic soap or of alcohol-based hand rinses should depend on whether it is important to reduce and maintain minimal counts of colonizing flora, as well as to mechanically remove the contaminating flora. Consult your infection control department if you have a question as to whether you should use an antimicrobial soap.
- Even if gloves are worn, hand washing is still extremely important when gloves are removed. Gloves may become perforated and bacteria can multiply rapidly on gloved hands.
Source: APIC Infection Control Tips on Hand Washing, 2005