Wash your hands – don’t spread illness

Advice for International Infection Prevention Week (IIPW) 14th – 20th October

If you were told that doing one simple (and free) thing could save you, your family and your co-workers from becoming ill wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity?  Well you can – the simplest way of reducing the spread of infections such as tummy bugs, coughs, colds, and even superbugs is to wash your hands PROPERLY.  At home we can do that using soap and water and in our healthcare settings we also have alcohol gel which is accessible in all areas.

International Infection Prevention Week 14th – 20th October takes place around the world to highlight how we can protect our health through reducing infection. Healthcare workers are trained to follow good hand hygiene practice but it is important for everyone to realise how vital proper hand washing is. Good hand hygiene involves following simple steps every time we wash our hands to ensure that all parts of the hands are clean.  Have a look at the video on proper hand washing.

Professor Martin Cormican, HSE National Lead for Antibiotic Resistance says, “Surfaces that look clean often have billions of bacteria and viruses so you can pick them up from touching most surfaces. International studies have shown faecal contamination is found on a wide variety of surfaces including bank notes, bar snacks, shopping bags, computer keyboards, mobile phones, wrist bands, ice cubes, kitchen taps, cleaning cloths and surfaces in your kitchen. So you can see why it is really important that you wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water and then dry them on a clean towel.  We often think we have washed our hands properly but have a look at this short experiment and you will be surprised”.

Dr Nuala O’Connor GP says, “Don’t forget to teach your children the important life skill of hand washing.  Many of the patients I see every day could have stopped the spread of infection by washing their hands and not touching their hands to their face. We should all actively promote effective hand washing with our children at home, in our schools and crèches to reduce the chance of infections being spread.”

Some tips for stopping infections spreading at home are listed below – you should try to make a habit of washing your hands regularly during the day.  The goal is to find a good balance between keeping your hands clean when it’s most important without limiting your enjoyment of life.  Particularly important times to wash your hand are:

  • When you have been in contact with a person or an animal with an infection
  • When you get back to your home from being out and about or at work, especially if your work involves a lot of contact with people or animals
  • Before starting to prepare or handle food
  • After touching raw meat including poultry
  • Before eating food
  • After using the toilet and after changing nappies.

See for more information about good hand hygiene. Check out the IIPW site for lots of games, fun facts and information on preventing infection

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