Importance of Hand Hygiene, Best Practices & Products

 Human hands are the vehicle for microscopic, harmful germs to cross-contaminate across surfaces and objects, adversely affecting one’s health. Cold & flu season is upon us. There is a new threat to contend with amid the world’s ongoing health crisis. So, prevention via hand hygiene is essential because surfaces and objects touched in a day are sources of harmful germ contamination and cross-contamination. This article expresses the importance of amplifying hand hygiene protocols, the best hand sanitizing techniques, and recommendations to safer solutions that provide continuous protection and peace of mind.

Hands down, the best way to stop germs from spreading is good hand hygiene – but what does this mean exactly? Take children, for example, at the beginning of a school year. Children start the school year, often become ill at school, and, upon returning home, it is a matter of time before the whole family is cycling through the illness.

The above example is one of many that describes how people of all ages can become impacted by the spread of harmful germs person-to-person. Typically, this occurs after coming into contact with a germ then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth. Many germs that spread person-to-person through the air and across surfaces or objects can cause illness – or worse.

Colds are generally less severe than the flu and typically leave people with a runny or stuffy nose. In contrast, flu symptoms include body aches, fever, extreme fatigue, in addition to a runny or stuffy nose. Although annoying, people can maintain their daily routines with a cold. On the other hand, the flu is debilitating — conditions like pneumonia, bacterial infections, and hospitalization can result.

The “stomach flu” is an infection of the digestive tract (stomach, intestines), whereas influenza (flu) is a respiratory infection caused by a virus that attacks the throat, nose, and sometimes lungs. While illness from the flu is usually mild or moderate, it can be severe and fatal.

Germs From Hands and Body Make People Sick

As the world remains focused on preventing person-to-person airborne germ proliferation with personal protective masks, we also witness other germ outbreaks. Keep in mind that a surface can include that of foods and beverages. Salmonella and E. Coli are two types of germs that trigger widespread food recalls and health issues when outbreaks are uncontrolled.

Bacteria

Salmonella,

a type of harmful germ, lives in the digestive tract of humans and other animals and is the cause of one of the most common types of food poisoning. After ingestion, stomach cramps and diarrhea can range from four to seven days. Salmonella is the second highest cause of foodborne diseases and is one of food recalls’ primary causes. Salmonella can come from meat (chicken, beef, pork), dairy (eggs), fruits, vegetables, and processed foods.

Escherichia coli
(E. coli)

infection comes from cattle-derived fecal material. These harmful bacteria can contaminate meat during food processing and affect crop irrigation water supply. E. coli bacteria multiply on food and, after ingestion, affect the small intestine. Outbreaks of E. coli result in food recalls, mostly linked to ground beef. Other foods affected by E. coli include dried cured salami, unpasteurized fresh-pressed apple cider, yogurt, and cheese made from raw milk.

Around the world, the top two killers of young children – approximately 1.8 million under the age of 5 – are diarrheal diseases and pneumonia. The estimated global handwashing rates after using the toilet are only 19%. Is there some correspondence? Researchers have accounted for as much as one trillion germs in one gram of human fecal matter, further emphasizing the need for constant hand hygiene protocols.

If germs transfer from unwashed hands person-to-person, illness can undoubtedly result—more time and attention paid to good hand hygiene results in healthier individuals and safer communities.

Hand Hygiene is Essential

One of the most important steps to avoiding illness is keeping the hands clean; it is the most effective way to prevent disease.

Eliminating germs from the hands is possible with hand washing. Or, in the absence of running water and soap, use a hand sanitizer to destroy germs effectively. However, harmful germs spread through the lack of proper hand hygiene, so the choice is to adopt one or the other method for exercising daily vigilance.

Healthcare, food preparation, and foodservice industries mandate hand hygiene among personnel. Elsewhere, it is up to the individual to regulate the method and frequency of hand hygiene protocols.

Contaminated surfaces go far beyond household countertops, offices desks, and the steering wheels of cars. Affected surfaces also include raw, uncooked, or undercooked foods. All it takes is one touch to start the process of germ proliferation surface-to-surface.

Without realizing it, germs can enter the body by touching the eyes, nose, and mouth. Therefore, handwashing reduces the chances of germs spreading and resulting in digestive, respiratory, and ocular infections.

Public education on handwashing has positively affected communities with reductions of:

23-40%

among people who get sick from a diarrhea-related illness

58%

diarrheal illness in people with weakened immune systems

16-21%

respiratory illnesses (ex. colds) in the general population

29-57%

school-aged children absenteeism due to gastrointestinal illness

Proactive hand hygiene can also help prevent visits to a physician who often prescribes antibiotics with the previously described conditions. Overuse of antibiotics leads to resistance, which creates a more complex problem for healthcare providers to address with the general population.

Best Way to Perform Hand Hygiene

Clean hands maintain health. The first line of defense with good hand hygiene protocols is thorough handwashing. Germs will wash off hands with soap and running water. However, there are a few pointers to keep in mind. Also, adults are encouraged to share this knowledge with kids, so they learn the importance of creating and living by healthy habits.

– Remove jewelry.

    • Avoid damaging jewelry with chemicals or abrasives; it is best to remove rings and bracelets before handwashing.

– Use cold or tepid running water.

    • Avoid hot water with hand hygiene protocols. The heat strips the natural oils away from the top layer of the skin; this is the body’s natural defense against germs.

– Add soap, make bubbles.

    • Apply approximately one teaspoon of soap to hands, turn off the tap to conserve water, and lather up for the recommended 20-second handwashing interval.
    • Avoid soaps with harsh chemicals that can also damage skin quality.
    • Whether singing the “Happy Birthday” song or portraying a surgeon on TV or in the movies, while using one’s imagination, be sure that the soapy suds cover the areas of the wrist, palm, back of the hand, between all fingers, and underneath fingernails.

– Rinse the soap from wrists and hands under lukewarm or cold running water.

– Air dry hands or use a clean, dry towel.

    • One-time use, laundered hand towels or paper towels reduce the chances of germ cross-contamination versus untreated, multi-use fabric towels found in most household kitchens and baths.

– Toss the towel responsibly.

  • Once the hands are dry, use the towel to turn off the tap or open a public restroom door.
  • Dispose of the used hand towel in a designated hamper or a waste bin.

Adopting good hand hygiene is the first line of defense with preventing the spread of germs that cause illness in homes, at work, and in public places. Yet, how often should handwashing be done?

When to Wash Hands

It is now common knowledge that good hand hygiene staves off harmful germs that cause sickness to keep households and communities safe. Taking this one step further, researchers analyzed data to recommend when it is most important to wash hands. In addition to when hands are visibly dirty, this list includes these recommendations.

BEFORE:

  • Preparing medications.
  • Inserting contact lenses.

BEFORE and AFTER:

  • Visiting family or friends who are sick.
  • Providing medical care or caregiving.
  • Administering wound care.
  • Touching the eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Touching a personal protective mask.
  • Entering and leaving a public place.
  • Touching frequently used objects and surfaces.
    • Door handles, counters & tables, gas pumps, shopping carts, or electronic cashier registers and screens.
  • Food preparation and handling.
  • Eating food.
  • Wiping the mouth.

AFTER:

  • Sneezing, blowing the nose, or coughing.
  • Using the bathroom.
  • Childcare in restrooms.
    • Diaper changes.
    • Assisted toilet use.
  • Cleaning a household.
  • Contacting garbage and waste bins.
  • Touching an animal, animal food or treats, or handling animal waste.
  • Returning from public places and the outdoors.
    • Subway, shared transportation.
    • Grocery & other stores.

Using running water is a must; do not use standing water for hand hygiene. Also, do not use cleaning cloths or sponges on the hands; germs thrive in moist environments.

While it is often a timesaver to copy and paste lists like this into a phone for reference. However, research shows that out of 1,200 people polled (VitalVio):

  • 88% said they use their smartphone while in the bathroom.
  • Mobile devices may harbor bacteria such as E. coli.
  • Nearly 25% never wiped down or cleaned their phone.

The survey cites the World Health Organization (WHO) that reports, “…antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be found in strains of Staphylococcus (staph), MRSA, Streptococcus pneumoniae (cause of pneumonia and bacterial meningitis) and even foodborne illnesses such as Salmonella and Escherichia coli (E-coli). These bacteria can remain active for up to a day on hard surfaces including stainless steel and plastic, making everything from our kitchen counters to TV remotes a breeding ground for disease.”

Everything around us is a potential surface that can harbor harmful germs. Thankfully, there is a faster way to maintain hand hygiene protocols to avoid recontamination of hands from dirt and germs.

When to Sanitize Hands

In the absence of soap and water, sanitizing hands is recommended. However, excessive hand hygiene from soaps and sanitizers will result in skin corrosion.

As a safer alternative, alcohol-free, non-toxic hand sanitizers are equally effective. Some advanced formulated products now give hours of protection and peace of mind. In stark contrast, traditional hand sanitizers lag, only capable of providing 20-seconds of germ-fighting protection. Filled with highly toxic chemicals that can damage the skin with overuse, alcohol-based products reportedly cause accidental and intentional ingestion poisoning in children and adults worldwide.

There are two types of approved alcohol-based hand sanitizer active ingredients: isopropyl and ethanol. The third approved active ingredient is an alcohol-free alternative with a technical classification of an organic salt (synthesized).

Quaternary amines top the list of recommended ingredients to restore industries, institutions, and businesses effectively. These versatile compounds, abbreviated as QACs, are backed with research data. Found in everyday use products, QACs improve lives through products that range from preservatives in contact lens solutions to surfactants in shampoos and anti-static laundry products. QACs can be effective on germs and gentle on the skin, as seen in baby wipes.

As powerful germ-fighters, QACs formulated in hand & body sanitizers are non-damaging and gentle on the skin. With prolonged use, QACs soften the skin. Advanced formulations of hand sanitizers with QACs provide hours of protection and the peace of mind to thrive in today’s environment.

As a matter of safety, alcohol-free hand sanitizer deters intentional abuse and is a safer choice for use by people of all ages.

Types of Hand Sanitizers

When soap and running water are not available, there is a choice to be made.

The outdated way: Dousing skin with at least 60% alcohol – and often. The effectiveness of either type of alcohol-based hand sanitizer is 20-seconds (isopropyl, ethanol) – while the product is wet. Once evaporated, the hands are vulnerable to contamination. Overuse leads to skin damage and can cause alcohol addiction.

The new way: Alcohol-free, non-toxic, QAC-based alternatives (benzalkonium chloride) provide up to 4-hours of powerful germ-fighting protection with each application, improving skin quality.

Liquid foaming hand sanitizers have a consistency more like soap and water from a pump. Gel hand sanitizers contain thickening agents that make handling easier but have a heavier feel than liquids. Sanitizing wipes are a convenient alternative for on-the-go lifestyles.

How to Use Hand Sanitizer

  • Remove jewelry (rings, bracelets).
  • Dispense liquid foam or gel hand sanitizer into the palm of one hand.
    • Approximately 3 millimeters, the width of two pennies.
  • Rub it in as if using soap and water.
    • Wrist, palm, back of the hand, between all fingers, and underneath nail beds.
  • Allow hands and skin to air dry.

If hands are visibly dirty or greasy, the effectiveness of any hand sanitizer reduces. Also, do not rely on hand sanitizers to clean and remove any chemicals from the skin – that is a job for soap and running water. Finally, store all hand sanitizers away from children and supervise use avoiding contact with the eyes and mouth.

Children’s growing skin is sensitive. Also, the goal with children is to encourage and maintain good hand hygiene. If they know applying alcohol to an area of the hands with a nick or a cut will sting, offering a no-sting hand and body sanitizer is better received. For children, long-lasting alcohol-free QAC-based hand and body sanitizer formulations are a safer choice.

Excessive Hand Hygiene

Some industries must mandate continuous hand hygiene protocols to serve the public continuously. However, excessive handwashing and the overuse of alcohol-based hand sanitizers result in dry, red, cracked, peeling skin of the hands.

Recommendations for continuous hand hygiene environments include:

  • Wetting the hands before applying soap.
  • Patting hands rather than rubbing dry with paper towels.
  • Using hand lotion.

GlanHealth™ Revolutionizes QAC Sanitizers

GH Hand Sanitizers Collage

Dalrada Health’s GlanHealth™ is a world leader in alcohol-free advanced QAC-based sanitizers with safer alternative products that restore lives and industries. GlanHealth™ addresses good hand hygiene as a complete, end-to-end sanitizing solution component.

  • Hands & Body (up to 4-hours)
    • Moisturizing liquid hand sanitizers
    • Skin repair formula with soothing aloe vera
    • Wallmount dispensed sanitizing soap
    • Wallmount dispensed hand sanitizer
    • Individually wrapped for convenience
    • Bulk quantities available
  • All-purpose surface sanitizer
  • Specialty formulas (up to 28-days)
    • Food prep surface sanitizer
    • Laundry sanitizer
    • Aviation, aircraft cabin\
    • Mold & mildew
    • Electrostatic spray
  • Industrial surface (up to 90-days)

With GlanHealth™, the safer choices are simple: pump, wipe or spray. For additional information, including regular commercial and residential electrostatic spray services, bulk volume, affiliate, and private label programs, visit www.glanhealth.com