Even though we learn the importance of the hand hygiene basics from a young age, statistics point to the U.S. having an alarming and, well, gross problem with dirty hands. One study found that 95 percent of people don't wash their hands long enough to kill germs and bacteria after using public restrooms– and it gets worse. A lot of the germs on people's hands that cause health problems originate with – you guessed it – feces.
Yes, yuck, and yuck isn't the half of it. Poor hand hygiene can be quite dangerous. Contaminated hands are at the root of a significant number of food-related disease outbreaks, and improper hand hygiene is responsible for one in three diarrhea-related illnesses and one in five respiratory infections.
With those facts in mind, let's look at some even more compelling reasons that everyone should wash their hands.
Handwashing is a Long-Time Lifesaver
The observation that hand washing can prevent illness isn't exactly new.
As far back as the mid-1800s caregivers noticed hygiene going hand-in-hand with lower infection rates. In fact, nursing legend Florence Nightingale made the life-saving routine of handwashing mandatory in Crimean War hospitals and recognized a two-thirds drop in mortality.
The late 19th century witnessed the birth of the germ theory of infection, and the medical community discovered a fact now taken for granted – diseases are caused by invisible microorganisms, and soap and water can wash many away.
Even with all our medical innovation and advancement, this age-old observation remains key to effective medical care.
Anywhere and Everywhere, Handwashing Helps
While it's certainly important to wash your hands after using the restroom, that's not the only situation in which hand hygiene prevents the spread of disease
Public doorknobs, smartphones, kitchen towels, surfaces on public transportation, tables and many other things we interact with are home to bacteria, so some researchers recommend washing your hand any time you feel they might be dirty.
For care providers, it's even more critical.
Handwashing is Even More Important in the Hospital
Healthcare providers need to maintain rigid, formal hand hygiene compliance due to unique factors like:
Many contagious people in one location;
Some patients with compromised immune systems;
Caregivers managing multiple patients.
In such environments, there's an unintended consequence of poor hand hygiene compliance that not only helps diseases spread but makes diseases stronger.
Handwashing Prevents Antibiotic Resistance (and Controls Costs)
Antibiotics have proven to be our most effective tool for combating life-threatening bacterial infections. However the over-prescription and misuse of antibiotics has created resistant strains of bacteria; strains that have developed immunity to many drugs, rendering those drugs ineffective.
When patients present with bacterial infections, which could have been prevented by hand hygiene compliance, it leads to extra antibiotic prescriptions, statistically increasing the chance of creating and unleashing a resistant strain.
Not only is antibiotic resistant bacteria incredibly dangerous to vulnerable patients, it's also costly to control. One study estimating the cost of MRSA outbreaks found that a 200-bed hospital would incur nearly $2 million per year in events linked to hand hygiene non-compliance and that only a 1% increase in hand hygiene compliance could save nearly $40,000 per year.
When Infection Gets Smart, We Get Smarter
Bacteria are capable of evolving into a bigger threat, but the tools and processes we use to fight diseases are evolving as well – and Ventyv™ is part of that evolution.
Every day, we're helping to strengthen healthcare providers' hand hygiene compliance measures with our scientifically-developed hand protection products. When properly used our reliable, disposable hand protection products protect against the spread of infection, helping healthcare providers save money – and lives.
Subscribe to our blog for the latest developments in the world of hand protection and infection prevention, and learn what unique benefits using Ventyv™'s hand protection products will bring you and your patients.Read More