DOCTOR CALLING: Beat spread of germs with good hand hygiene

Dr Kevin Hill, chairman, South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).  ANL-140520-111918001.
Dr Kevin Hill, chairman, South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). ANL-140520-111918001.
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South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is encouraging everyone, particularly visitors to hospitals and care homes, to adopt good hand hygiene this winter.

This season of the year sees the spread of colds, flu and norovirus (sickness and diarrhoea) through touching surfaces as we go about our daily business, then touching our mouths or food that we eat.

Adopting good hand hygiene reduces the risk of germs spreading which is particularly important when we are visiting friends or relatives in hospital, the elderly at their home or when we are around very young children

Dr Kevin Hill, chairman, South Lincolnshire Clinical Commissioning Group

Adopting good hand hygiene reduces the risk of spread which is particularly important when we are visiting friends or relatives in hospital, the elderly at their home or when we are around very young children.

The best way to wash hands is with soap and warm water, paying attention to fingers, thumbs, under nails and wrists.

Drying hands properly is just as important, as damp hands can harbour germs.

These can live on some surfaces for hours, meaning they can be easily transferred to others.

It is important that we do all we can to try and protect vulnerable patients in our hospitals, particularly those who may have impaired immunity, as well as those in the community so they don’t end up being admitted.

If you see signs asking you to clean your hands before you enter a ward, please do so as getting into the routine of good hand hygiene will help all year round, not just for winter.

Each year, tens of thousands of people are hospitalised because of flu which is highly contagious and those in hospital are much more vulnerable to its more severe effects.

Once flu is circulating, apart from vaccination, good hygiene is the main way to prevent it spreading.

Parents are also reminded to make sure little ones are taught how to clean their hands properly, particularly if they are around grandparents or friends and relatives that are ill.

Good hygiene means:

• Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and put the tissue in the bin straight away – don’t save it to reuse later.

If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow, rather than your hands.

• Wash hands with soap and warm water. This will remove the majority of germs and prevent them spreading to other people. Studies show that handwashing techniques are often poor and the most commonly neglected areas are the tips of the fingers, palm of the hand and the thumb.

• Use alcohol hand rub if you are visiting someone in hospital. This should be rubbed into all areas of the hands, again paying attention to the thumbs, fingertips, between the fingers and the backs of the hands until the hands feel dry.

But it’s important to know this won’t help with norovirus where soap and water is best.

Following these simple steps makes a huge difference in preventing the spread of the flu virus, colds and norovirus to patients and the public.

It’s such an easy thing to do, but it will ensure that people stay well this winter.

For more information about winter illness, visit www.nhs.uk/staywell