Has your hand hygiene slipped a little since the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic? If you answered yes, you’re probably not alone. 

Today is International Hand Hygiene Day – a great day for us to re-invigorate the great practices we all developed over the past few years.  

Did you know that human hands are one of the main ways infections are spread. 

From the pole on a train, to a pedestrian crossing button and then into a hospital – infections like COVID-19, influenza and staphylococcus are constantly on the move. 

When we touch our eyes, nose, or mouth with contaminated hands, we can unknowingly introduce viruses and bacteria into our bodies.

Hand hygiene is essential because it helps to break the chain of infection.

Peter Mac’s Infection Prevention Manager Elizabeth Gillespie said cancer patients and their families need to be extra vigilant with hand hygiene.

“Hand hygiene is essential for everyone, but it is particularly important for cancer patients and their families and carers,” Gillespie says. 

“Cancer patients may have weakened immune systems, which makes them more susceptible to infections which could lead to complications, delay or interrupt cancer treatment, or even be life-threatening.”

Handwashing with a mild soap and warm water is the most effective method of hand hygiene, as it physically removes dirt and germs from the hands. It should be done for at least 20 seconds, ensuring that all parts of the hand, including the nails, fingertips and the backs of hands are thoroughly cleaned. 

“Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective in reducing the number of germs on the hands, and are used as a substitute for handwashing, when hands are not visibly soiled”, Gillespie explains.

“When using the sanitizer hand hygiene method, make sure you get in between fingers too.”

Cancer patients need to be mindful of their surroundings and take precautions when visiting public places, such as hospitals, clinics, and public transportation. Try to avoid crowded areas as much as possible, wear a mask to protect against respiratory infections, and avoid touching surfaces.

Hand hygiene is simple and incredibly effective – 20 seconds is all it takes.