Comm Eye Health Vol. 21 No. 65 2008 pp 17. Published online 01 March 2008.

Reducing the risk of infection: hand washing technique

Sue Stevens

Nurse Advisor to the Community Eye Health Journal, International Centre for Eye Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Keppel Street, London WC1E 7HT, UK.

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Eyes are susceptible to infection by many organisms, including gram-negative bacilli, adenoviruses, the herpes simplex virus, and fungi. Infection puts eyes at higher risk of complications after cataract surgery.

Hand washing is the most important, fundamental principle of infection control. It must be strongly encouraged and practised by all disciplines in the health care setting.

Hand washing is a fundamental principle of infection control. © Nuwan Niyadurupola
Hand washing is a fundamental principle of infection control. © Nuwan Niyadurupola

Hand washing is required in the following situations:

  • before any aseptic procedure
  • before and after handling any patient
  • after handling any soiled item
  • before and after handling food
  • whenever hands are, or even feel, soiled
  • when entering and leaving a clinical area
  • after using the toilet or assisting a patient in the toilet

Many health care workers are unaware of the need for frequent hand washing and that a certain technique is required for hand washing to be effective.

Written instructions for hand washing, as given below, should be displayed in all clinical areas.

Hand washing instructions
Hand washing instructions
  • Wet hands with clean, preferably running, water
  • Apply soap or cleanser
  • Rub palm to palm
  • Rub back of left hand over right palm
  • Rub back of right hand over left palm
  • Rub palm to palm with fingers interlaced
  • Rub backs of fingers on opposing palms with fingers interlocked
  • Rub around right thumb with left palm
  • Rub around left thumb with right palm
  • Rub palm of left hand with fingers of right hand
  • Rub palm of right hand with fingers of left hand
  • Rinse off soap with clean, preferably running, water, and dry well.