Cold and flu season is here

‘It only takes 20-30 seconds of your time to clean your hands’

October 31, 2013 — Deron Hamel 

With the arrival of cold and flu season comes the reminder of how important proper hand hygiene is in the effort to keep residents and staff members safe in long-term care homes.

Twenty to thirsty seconds of handwashing? Priceless. Thanks to for the photo.

Twenty to thirsty seconds of handwashing? Priceless. Thanks to for the photo

Long-term care home residents can be particularly vulnerable to infections. While homes are equipped with many hand-sanitizers and staff members do their best to keep their hands clean, it’s worthwhile, especially this time of year, to remind people about proper hand-washing techniques.

While environmental services departments work tirelessly to keep tables, doorknobs, handrails and other commonly-touched areas of long-term care homes clean, the most important defence is keeping hands bacteria free.

The Health Canada website explains proper hand-washing techniques:

– Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Alcohol-based hand cleansers are useful when soap and water are not available. In most cases antibacterial soap is not necessary for safe, effective hand hygiene.
– Remove any hand or arm jewellery you may be wearing and wet your hands with warm water. Add regular soap and rub your hands together, ensuring you have lathered all surfaces for at least 15 seconds — approximately the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday.”
– Wash the front and back of your hands, as well as between your fingers and under your nails.
– Rinse your hands well under warm running water, using a rubbing motion.
– Wipe and dry your hands gently with a paper towel or a clean towel. Drying them vigorously can damage the skin.
– Turn off the tap using the paper towel so that you do not re-contaminate your hands. When using a public bathroom, use the same paper towel to open the door when you leave.
– If skin dryness is a problem, use a moisturizing lotion.

Oct. 21-25 was International Infection Control Week. The week, which has been recognized since 1988, is aimed at raising the awareness of ways to prevent infections in health-care environments.

“Cleaning your hands is an ordinary procedure and does not take a lot of time and effort,” the Community and Hospital Infection Control Association of Canada says in a statement.

“You can use soap and water or alcohol-based hand rub. It only takes 20-30 seconds of your time to clean your hands.”

Just Clean Your Hands, a Public Health Ontario initiative has education and training information for long-term care homes looking for ways to maximize hand-hygiene practices. Click here for the website.

What is your home doing to promote hand hygiene? If you have a story you would like to share, please call the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 23.

If you have feedback on this story, please call the newsroom at 800-294-0051, ext. 23, or e-mail deron(at)