Friday, October 17, 2008

Spread Cheer, Not Germs, This Holiday Season

(ARA) - Stopping by the nursing home or hospital to spend time with loved ones is a holiday ritual for thousands of Americans -- but are you sharing more than gifts and goodies when you visit?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention video “Hand Hygiene Saves Lives,” patients in the United States develop more than one million infections each year in hospitals while they are there being treated for something else. Bloodstream, urinary tract and surgical wound infections, as well as pneumonia, are examples of the infections patients can develop while under hospital care. These infections can be transmitted by direct or indirect contact, by contaminated objects or through the air.

“Your hands are the main transmitters of health care-acquired infections,” says Alecia Cooper, a registered nurse and senior vice president of clinical services for Medline Industries, Inc. “This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since your hands are constantly in contact with your surroundings -- opening doors or dialing the phone, for example.”

Infection prevention is in your hands
Two simple things can go a long way toward ensuring that you’re not sharing bacteria along with your cookies and fudge -- keeping your hands clean and making sure you are cleaning them correctly.

“Washing your hands often is the number one thing you can do to fight the spread of infection, particularly after coughing or sneezing into your hands,” says Cooper. “Evidence supports the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizing gels, but if sanitizer isn’t available, use soap and water.”

Just as important is making sure you are covering the areas of your hands that are likely to have the greatest density of germs. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, these include the area under your fingernails, your palms, the backs of your hands and the “webbing” in between your fingers.

“Put a squirt of gel or soap in the palm of one hand and dip the fingertips of the opposite hand into the pools before spreading over other areas, then repeat with the other hand and fingertips,” says Cooper. “It only takes a few seconds and you will be getting at where the majority of germs are.”

Speak up ... about washing up
Proper hand hygiene is one of the cornerstones in preventing the spread of infection in a health care setting. Studies have shown, however, that despite being a proven effective practice, hand hygiene compliance among health care workers is poor, with the World Health Organization reporting an average compliance rate of 40 percent.

As part of its Prevention Above All campaign, Medline earlier this year launched a comprehensive Hand Hygiene Compliance Program to educate health care providers on the importance of hand hygiene and using the proper technique. The CDC also encourages patients and their families to ask doctors and nurses to wash their hands, especially when they are about to deliver care. Even if the caregiver says they washed their hands right before coming into the room, don’t feel embarrassed to ask them to do it again in front of you.

“You should never be afraid of speaking up and asking caregivers to sanitize their hands,” says Cooper. “They want to prevent infections just as much as you do.”

To learn more about Medline’s Hand Hygiene Compliance Program or the Prevention Above All campaign, visit www.medline.com.

Courtesy of ARAcontent

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