Frequent handwashing with running water and soap can reduce risk of infection 3 ways:
Contracting an infection. If we touch contaminated surfaces infection may enter the body if we then touch our eyes, nose or mouth. A 2015 study showed participants touched their face an average of 23 times per hour as summarised here.
Passing our infection on to others. Symptoms of flu and other infections may not be evident during incubation. Safe hygiene practices will reduce our risk of spreading infection to others.
Spreading infection from one person to another. We may inadvertently pass on infection to one or more people through touching infected surfaces.
To prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, which include both coronaviruses and flu viruses, the CDC recommends:
. wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
. avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
. avoid close contact with people who are sick;
. stay home when you are sick;
. clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
Hand sanitiser with minimum 60% alcohol can also be effective if hand washing is not available and hands are not soiled. However hand sanitiser is not a replacement for hand washing. Hand sanitiser is also a process taking 30 seconds to rub in and dry to be effective.
Our observation at residential care facilities has highlighted how many surfaces and people are touched in between cleaning hands, no matter how vigilant staff are.