(RxWiki News) May 5 is World Hand Hygiene Day, and the CDC is reminding everyone that keeping your hands clean is one of the most important ways to prevent potentially life-threatening infections.
In fact, properly washing your hands can prevent serious infections that lead to sepsis, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Sepsis is life-threatening and can lead to tissue damage, organ failure and even death if action isn't taken in a timely matter. Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection you already have somewhere in your body.
The good news? Proper hand hygiene can help prevent serious infections that can lead to sepsis.
Symptoms of sepsis include confusion, shortness of breath, fast heart rate, fever, pain, and sweaty or clammy skin. Although anyone can get an infection, and infections can lead to sepsis, some people are at higher risk. Some people who face a higher risk of infection and sepsis include the following:
- Adults 65 or older
- People with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease
- People with a weak immune system
- Children younger than 1 year old
- Those in the hospital
On World Hand Hygiene Day and every day, you can take steps to prevent infections and sepsis, such as the following:
1) Wash your hands frequently with soap and water OR with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It's particularly important to wash your hands at the following times:
- Before preparing and eating food
- Before touching your face, eyes, nose or mouth
- Before and after changing wound dressings or bandages
- After using the bathroom
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After touching hospital surfaces, such as bed rails
2) Keep cuts clean and covered until they are healed.
3) Know the symptoms of infection. If you notice any signs or symptoms of an infection — especially if your infection is not getting better or is getting worse — seek medical care.
4) Know the symptoms of sepsis. Do not delay medical care.
Washing your hands often is only part of the puzzle. Proper hand-washing is key. When washing your hands with soap and water, take the following steps:
- Wet your hands with warm water. Use liquid soap if possible. Apply a nickel- or quarter-sized amount of soap to your hands.
- Rub your hands for at least 15 seconds.
- Rub your hands together until the soap forms a lather, and then rub all over the tops of your hands. Make sure to get in between your fingers and the areas around and under the fingernails.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands with a paper towel if possible.
- Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door.
If you are using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, apply the product to your hands and rub them together for about 20 seconds.
Speak with your health care provider about ways you can prevent infections and sepsis.
Written By Anyssa Garza, PharmD, BCMAS