Seven out of ten people in the west don’t wash their hands for long enough

Seven out of 10 people in the west do not wash their hands for long enough to kill germs that cause infections, according to new research, just published.

It revealed that 71 per cent of Connacht adults do not wash their hands for the recommended 15 seconds. World Health Organisation (WHO ) guidelines indicate that washing one’s hands properly takes about as long as singing “Happy Birthday” twice.

The results of the national survey, which were published to mark Global Handwashing Day, which took place on Wednesday, reveal that 56 per cent of people in the west do not wash their hands after blowing their noses. Seven out of ten do not do so after sneezing. Other interesting facts from the research undertaken by the Bon Secours Health System to promote good hand hygiene following is recent success in securing the number one spot in the national hand hygiene compliance audit include:-

• 61 per cent do not wash their hands after coughing.

• 60 per cent do not wash their hands after travelling on public transport.

• 17 per cent do not wash their hands before handling food.

• Only four per cent admitted to not washing their hands after using the toilet.

The national handwashing survey also found disparities between men and women in their handwashing practices with women more likely then men to wash their hands seven or more times per day (73 per cent compared to 51 per cent ). Meanwhile 63 per cent of women believe washing their hands is “extremely important” compared to just 47 per cent of men.

Mary Dunne, the director of nursing and clinical services at the Bon Secours Hospital in Galway, says the positive impact of handwashing cannot be over emphasised.

“Global Handwashing Day serves as a great reminder to all about the role of handwashing in preventing the transmission of harmful germs which can be particularly important in the lead-in to winter when bugs such as cold and flu can spread quickly.”

Ruth Gill, a clinical nurse specialist in infection prevention and control at the private hospital in Renmore states the research findings clearly show a “disconnect” between public awareness and action in relation to handwashing when visiting hospitals.

“The Bon Secours is committed to the very highest hygiene levels; we continually remind staff, patients and visitors of the importance of washing their hands and strive to make it as easy as possible for them to access alcohol hand-gel dispensers.

“This continuous education, easy access to washing facilities and the diligence of our committed staff delivers exceptional hygiene levels throughout the Bon Secours facilities. This is supported by our team of clinical nurse specialists in infection prevention and control across all four Bon Secours hospitals. We hope this research will help raise awareness with the general public about the importance of good hand hygiene.”

Teaching people about effective handwashing has been shown to reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhoea by 31 per cent, more than half diarrhoeal illness in people with weakened immune systems and cut respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 21 per cent.

Guidelines for washing your hands properly

• Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold ), turn off the tap, and apply soap.

• Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.

• Scrub your hands. Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.

• Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.

• Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.

All four Bon Secours Hospitals recently appeared in the top 10 across public and private hospitals in the national hand hygiene compliance audit by the Health Protection Surveillance Centre. The Bon Secours Group exceeded both the national 85.6 per cent average achieved and the HSE target of 90 per cent with Bon Secours Galway scoring 92.9 per cent.

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