New WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a guide on hand hygiene in healthcare, to provide healthcare workers (HCW) with specific recommendations on hand washing, to improve practice and reduce transmission of pathogens to patients and other healthcare workers.

In summary, the guidelines recommend the following hand washing practices:

  1. Wash hands with soap and water when visibly dirty, when soiled with blood or other body fluids, or after using the toilet. Hand washing with soap and water is preferred when exposure to potential spore-forming pathogens, such as Clostridium difficile, is strongly suspected or proven.
  2. In all other clinical situations, use an alcohol-based hand rub as the preferred means for routine hand antisepsis, if hands are not visibly soiled. Wash hands with soap and water if alcohol-based hand rub is not available.
  3. Soap and alcohol-based hand rub should not be used together.
  4. The CDC endorses the use of soap and warm water hand washing for 15 -20 seconds or the use of alcohol based hand rubs in protection against the H1N1 (Swine Flu) virus. In general though, the CDC does not promote the use of facemasks as protection against the H1N1 Virus, unless specifically required in circumstances in which there is a confirmed case of H1N1 influenza.

To obtain more detailed information about the WHO’s guidelines on hand hygiene in healthcare, or to obtain a Hand Hygiene Improvement and Implementation Toolkit, please go online to: http://www.who.int/gpsc/en/