Field Epidemiology Manual Wiki

Hand hygiene - principles

Last modified at 4/21/2016 7:00 PM by Vladimir Prikazsky

Hand hygiene is the procedure by which hands are made clean. This comprises the  physical removal of visible dirt (often the term used is “soiled hands”), transient microorganisms and some of the resident hand microorganisms (both invisible to the naked eye).

Hand hygiene in healthcare institution is carried out by washing hands in clean running tap water and plain liquid soap or antimicrobial soap, or by rubbing with an alcohol based antiseptic.

Another special type of hand hygiene is surgical hand preparation.

Hand hygiene is the primary preventive measure against healthcare associated infections (HAI), because the transfer of microorganisms via hands of healthcare workers is the most frequent way of transmission of microorganisms in healthcare.  Its effectiveness is enhanced by ensuring it is undertaken at ‘critical moments’ or indications for hand hygiene during care activities. 


Link to IC/HH Core competencies: Area 4 Infection control activities: Domain Elaborating infection control intervention ICA 1-2


WHO Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care. World Health Organization 2009 WHO/IER/PSP/2009.07