Throughout the day as you make your rounds, it is important to maintain your personal hygiene. This includes frequent handwashing or use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available. Handwashing is the single most important thing you can do to prevent transmission of disease or pathogens.
You must wash your hands:
- after any contact with blood, body fluids and contaminated material
- after removing gloves
- before and after using the toilet
- before leaving the laboratory
- before eating, drinking, or smoking
- before manipulating contact lenses
Proper handwashing is accomplished by using soap and warm water for a minimum of 15-30 seconds, before thoroughly rinsing and drying on a paper towel. If you are not sure how long 15 seconds is, an easy to remember trick is to silently sing Happy Birthday. One verse takes about 15 seconds.
Using a liquid, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is also an acceptable method of hand hygiene. Hand sanitizers actually destroy more germs than soap and water; However, only soap and water should be used if your hands are visibly dirty or contaminated.
Also, hand sanitizers may not be substituted for soap when there is a possibility of exposure to specimens containing Clostridium difficile, more commonly referred to as "C. diff."