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Baylor All Saints Medical Center at Fort Worth

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The Importance of Handwashing 


Stephanie Kreiling, infection control manager at Baylor All Saints Medical Center at Fort Worth, answers frequently asked questions about the importance of hand washing.

Why is hand washing important? 

Hand hygiene is the single most important action to prevent the transmission of infections.

When should you wash your hands?

You should wash your hands before, during and after preparing food; before eating food; before and after caring for someone who is sick; before and after treating a wound; after using the bathroom; after changing diapers; after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing; after touching garbage; and after handling animals or animal waste. 

How are germs transmitted?

Germs are most commonly spread by direct or indirect contact. Direct contact happens when a person touches a germy object or surface.

What is the correct way to wash hands?

  • Wet hands thoroughly and apply soap.
  • Rub lathered hands together vigorously for at least 15 seconds, covering all surfaces of the hands and fingers.
  • Rinse thoroughly under a stream of water.
  • Use a disposable towel to turn off faucet and discard the towel into the wastebasket.

Are alcohol-based sanitizers effective and how do you use them?

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, with at least 60 percent alcohol, are effective at killing most harmful germs on hands. However, hand sanitizers do not work well when hands are visibly dirty.

How much liquid hand sanitizer should be used?

  • Dispense alcohol into palm of hand (usually one pull from the dispenser yields an adequate volume to cover the hands).
  • Rub the alcohol well over fingers, fingernails, finger webs and backs of the hands.
  • Allow hands to dry naturally. Do not wipe off excess.