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ARTICLE

Handwashing: Are You Doing it Right? WHO Disagrees

APR 22, 2016 | SARAH ANWAR
As it turns out, there’s a wrong way to wash your hands.

Recently, a study, published in Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, examined the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) three-step handwashing method in comparison to the World Health Organization's (WHO) six-step method. The randomized control trial found the six-step method to be more effective in reducing the bacterial count on an individual's hands.  

Handwashing Differences

Although the CDC and WHO each have a different suggested method for ‘proper’ handwashing, they both agree that handwashing is the most effective way to ward off infections both in and outside of hospital settings. The CDC states that regular handwashing is a “do-it-yourself vaccine” that can hinder the spread of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections, as well as food-borne infections. Additionally, WHO states that “hands are the main pathways of germ transmission during health care.”

Dorothy McCoy, PharmD, BCPS-AQ ID, Clinical Associate Professor at the Ernest Mario School of Pharmacy at Rutgers University and Clinical Pharmacist, Infectious Diseases Hackensack University Medical Center, highlights the importance of handwashing when she explains why the norovirus spreads so efficiently.



When to Wash Your Hands

The CDC recommends that individuals should wash their hands before and after:
  • Preparing food
  • Eating
  • Caring for a sick individual
  • Treating a wound
  • Changing diapers or handling feces of any kind (including animals’)
  • Coughing, sneezing, blowing your nose
  • Touching garbage
In addition, WHO recommends that healthcare providers should wash their hands before and after:
  • Touching a patient
  • Touching patient surroundings
  • Fluid exposure
  • Performing cleaning/aseptic procedures
Not only is it important for healthcare providers to wash their hands after touching a patient (to reduce the risk of contracting a disease or infection), but it’s important to do so before touching a patient to reduce the risk of exposing the patient to additional infection.


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