Personal Hygiene – key in infection prevention

Personal hygiene plays a key role in infection prevention in health care. But what is personal hygiene and how do you implement this in practice?

Personal hygiene in the health care sector

Microbes spread easily in health care due to physical contact between health care professionals, patients and relatives. Maintaining a good personal hygiene significantly reduces the risk of cross-contamination and transmission of contagious infections.

According to WHO, hands are the main pathway of germ transmission during health care. Good and effective hand hygiene is therefore one of the most important steps to avoid the transmission of harmful germs and prevent health care associated infections.

Read more about good hand hygiene here.

Basic guidelines for proper personal hygiene 

The definition of good personal hygiene is often subjective, however basic hygienic guidelines for proper hygiene are:

  • Avoid hand and/or wrist jewelry as well as piercings (that can come in contact with patients)
  • Avoid long nails, nail polish and fake nails
  • Always keep hair short, or fixed and beards and mustaches short
  • Always use proper coughing and sneezing techniques 
  • No long sleeves – not longer than the elbow
  • If you have an open wound, always use a water resistant band aid so that hands can be wash and disinfected  

Pay attention to using correct coughing and sneezing techniques in order to prevent microbes from spreading through the air. The face must always be averted when sneezing or coughing, and it is important to use a paper handkerchief in front of your mouth, or use your elbow. Immediately discard the handkerchief in a waste bin and disinfect your hands.

Hand disinfection or hand washing?

In health care, hand disinfection can only stand by itself when the hands are visibly clean and dry, and hand washing should only be performed if the hands are visibly soiled or wet. If the hands need to be washed, they should automatically also be disinfected.

Before applying an alcohol-based disinfectant hands should be dry, as disinfectants increase the skin’s permeability and contribute to breaking down the skins barriers. If the skin’s permeability and suppleness are broken down, the skin can act as an entry port for microbes.

Taking good care of nails and skin  

For health care professionals, daily procedures of washing, disinfecting and drying can take its toll on the hands and leave the skin dry and chapped. To keep your hands healthy and fit for fight it is important to care for both hands and nails by using lotions, or a moisturizer with a high lipids content during the night if the hands require extra care. 

Always asses your hands to keep good hand hygiene: 

More on good hand hygiene

Gloves are a trusted friend

Gloves should be worn by health care professionals when performing tasks related to personal hygiene or handling of bodily fluids. They can be used for clean and unclean tasks to protect both health care professionals and patients from transmittable diseases. 

Always remember – use of gloves do not replace the need for cleaning your hands!  

More on gloves: why gloves are your best friend in fighting infections

ABENA’s 4 tips for Infection Prevention

Together we can ensure a safe workplace

  1. Avoid cross contamination: Never bring anything contaminated into contact with something clean.
  2. Clean or discard:  What is contaminated must be either cleaned or thrown away.
  3. Ensure basic hygiene: Apply proper personal - and hand hygiene.
  4. Protect yourself: Use the right protective wear and the right gloves in the right way.

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