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Handwashing: Why It Is So Important

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Hand washing has been a central pillar of personal hygiene among communities, cultures, and religions. This has since created a link between handwashing and health thereby introducing new methods of handwashing. In recent years, handwashing with soap and other forms of hand hygiene has been gaining recognition as a cost-effective, essential tool for achieving good health and nutrition globally.

Furthermore substantial level of control from diseases caused by foodborne outbreaks and healthcare-associated infections as a result of checks and balances aimed at promoting hand hygiene, some of these include implementation and support of hand hygiene programs that are consistent with the National Hand Hygiene Initiative (NHHI). (Clinical Excellence Commission., 2019).

In addition, there are various means of performing hand hygiene such as Applying an alcohol-based hand rub to the surface of hands (including liquids, gels, and foams) or washing hands with the use of water and soap or a soap solution, either non-antimicrobial or antimicrobial.

According to the aforementioned scenario, the family has the option of either using hand soap or alcohol hand sanitizer in ensuring effective infection control relative to healthcare standards. In recent years, increased research on hand hygiene suggests that effectiveness has been achieved through a collection of data or information on the positive aspects of the practice as well as the recommended methods between hand soap and an alcohol-based sanitizer, hence highlighting the advantages and disadvantages respectively(Vermeil et al., 2019).

Subsequently, it provides an opportunity to identify and improve on flaws affiliated with hand hygiene practices, by understanding their general outcomes in healthcare. Further studies also highly advocate for either practice as they have both proved to be the most effective means of hand hygiene over the years. However, the standard recommended practice remains to be the use of hand soap as opposed to the use of alcohol sanitizer; through understanding the nature of both means it is deemed that alcohol-based hand rub is not as effective for hand hygiene against hand soap because of its inability to break down tough germs and bacteria. Moreover, alcohol hand sanitizer is only limited to use in clinical situations where the hands are visibly clean whereas the use of hand soap is highly recommended whenever possible and mainly when an individual’s hands are visibly soiled. This, therefore, creates a perception that the family risk cross-infecting their loved one (Hand Hygiene Australia, 2019)

This research can assist with giving education and awareness on the different forms of hand hygiene and their importance. This further informs the healthcare approaches towards reducing the rate of preventable infections affecting patients, their carers, and their loved ones in healthcare settings and the community (Fox et al., 2015).

The study findings acknowledge that when performed correctly, both hand soap and alcohol-based sanitizers hygiene result in a reduction of germs and microorganisms on the hands which in turn reduces the spread of infections. However, there are limited resources that support the use of alcoholic sanitizers as efficient in reducing the microbial flora on the hands, unlike hand soap. Researchers note that the use of alcohol sanitizers is preferred in healthcare settings given its beneficial attributes such as; being mild and maintaining skin integrity, easy and quick access when required compared to hand washing where you require a sink and running water.

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Never the fewer studies continue to advocate for handwashing as the leading most effective means of reducing cross-infection of germs, bacteria, and prevention of nosocomial infections; however, the use of alcohol sanitizers is only used to supplement hand hygiene and therefore should not be considered a primary means of infection control.

Substantial studies and findings support the aforementioned by relating the preference of hand sanitizers against limitations of time and the use of soap and water. Although handwashing may be time-consuming and rigorous; it is highly recommended due to its anti-microbial properties that help kill germs and bacteria effectively. In order to curb the shortcomings of handwashing, it is a requirement that health care facilities provide

Another beneficial aspect of handwashing with soap is that involves the use of neutral soap hence reduces the chances of allergic reactions to alcohol-based hand rubs (Vermeil et al., 2019). Moreover, soap is considered cost-effective as it is less expensive, efficient, and has few side effects. However, alcohol sanitizers seem effective in terms of saving time and improving the overall compliance with hand hygiene recommendations in healthcare settings. Besides, alcohol hand sanitizer ensures fast drying thus serves as the most preferred hand hygiene method in most healthcare settings. In terms of reliability, hand soap is more reliable owing to its chances of reducing infections. On the other hand, in terms of validity and currency of the information selected, alcohol sanitizers seem to be preferred owing to their efficiency and ability to promote hand hygiene. However, the effectiveness level is limited compared to the use of hand soap (Mathur, 2011).

Based on the research findings, alcohol sanitizers are commonly used in most healthcare settings because of their ability to promote a level of hand hygiene that is fast, easy, and reliable. However, it is highly recommended to use hand soap since it is much more effective in reducing bacteria, germs, and cross infections unlike hand sanitizers are limited. (Kirkland et al., 2012)

There are a few potential areas of change that can be addressed towards promoting hand hygiene in healthcare settings and the community at large. Besides encouraging the practice of proper hand hygiene, education and public awareness need to be emphasized so that people are able to understand the benefits of handwashing compared to the preferred method of hand sanitizers. Other areas of change include sensitizing the community and healthcare providers on new means of hand washing hygiene as well as how to deal with infectious diseases, some of the techniques that can be instrumental include:

  • Use of informative awareness charts in health care settings
  • Use of different languages so as to accommodate minority groups like the blind and people from non-English speaking backgrounds
  • More signage and pictorials on the appropriate way of undertaking hand hygiene for easier understanding

This approach endeavors to encourage the use of traditional hand washing as opposed to sanitizers in healthcare settings (Marimuthu, Pittet, and Harbarth, 2014).

Further research is necessary to concretely address the potential side effects associated with the use of different hand hygiene methods like hand washing or alcohol sanitizers. Apart from studies conducted to promote hand hygiene, Investigators advocate for the use of different methods to study the in vivo efficacy of handwashing, antiseptic handwash, and surgical hand antisepsis protocols, in contrast to the nature of germs and bacteria. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019)

Other actions that can be adopted based on the research involve communicating with the patient's family members on the use of hand soap and its core benefits. Besides, the actions will also be based on demonstrating the effectiveness of the method in reducing possible infections (NCBI, 2013). Other key actions that can be employed involve the provision of handwashing amenities and resources like water, soap, and alcohol hand rub within the healthcare setting and information materials such as posters to improve the level of compliance with handwashing hygiene. Moreover, it is important to consider the patient's and relatives' views towards the use of both methods. On the other hand, involving other healthcare professionals can also help in better understanding why hand soap should be preferred compared to alcohol sanitizers, hence promoting confidence in the healthcare system (Vermeil et al., 2019).

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Handwashing: Why It Is So Important. (2021, July 30). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 26, 2024, from
“Handwashing: Why It Is So Important.” Edubirdie, 30 Jul. 2021,
Handwashing: Why It Is So Important. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 26 Feb. 2024].
Handwashing: Why It Is So Important [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Jul 30 [cited 2024 Feb 26]. Available from:
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