A simple step to good health

Every day we come into contact with millions of germs. Most are harmless, but not all – especially for people with a chronic illness like kidney disease. By washing your hands correctly and regularly, you can help keep yourself healthy and help prevent illness from spreading.

Why is hand washing so important?

Our surroundings are full of millions of microorganisms. For the most part, those on our body are helpful. But there are some harmful ones, most of which our highly intelligent bodies are able to keep in check. However, if we fail to follow hand hygiene procedures, there is a risk that harmful microorganisms could lead to infections or diseases.

Skin – a natural barrier

Typically our skin helps keep germs at bay. But small openings in the skin, like in the case of the needle insertion points, can allow harmful germs to enter our bodies, and possibly cause an infection. That is why people undergoing dialysis treatment must take extra care to clean their hands properly.

Sterile vs. clean

Sterile means something is 100% free from microorganisms and germs. The presence of just one microorganism causes an object to be deemed contaminated. Sterilising equipment and objects in a healthcare setting helps prevent harmful microorganisms from entering the body. Clean, in contrast, means microorganisms are still present. Your hands are clean after washing them but some microorganisms remain on the skin. Disinfectants can further help inhibit bacterial growth or destroy bacteria present on your hands or near your fistula.

Hand hygiene before haemodialysis treatment

Following good hand washing practices is the best way to reduce the number of germs on your hands, and help prevent infection. Health care providers recommend washing for at least 60 seconds, with running water and a liquid antibacterial soap, to remove obvious visible dirt along with invisible germs. Remember your hands are clean after washing, not sterile (see “Sterile vs. clean”). Don’t forget to wash both before and after dialysis treatment. Your nurse will instruct you on cleansing around your fistula before inserting the needles for dialysis. This, too, is an important part of preventing infections and complications.  

Furthermore, you should be familiar with the signs and symptoms of infection, such as

  • Redness
  • Fever
  • Swelling, warmth to touch
  • Pain
  • Exudate

If you experience any of these and believe you may have an infection, contact your healthcare professional immediately for treatment. Always keep in mind that prevention is always the best cure, which is why proper hand washing is critical.

Did you know …?

The importance of hand washing was first discovered in 1846 by a Hungarian obstetrician called Dr. Ignaz Semmelweiss. While working in maternity wards, he noticed the infant mortality rate for those cared for by doctors and medical students was up to three times higher than infants in wards looked after by midwives. Why? Because students were coming straight from the pathology lab without washing their hands, spreading infections from the lab to their patients. When students began washing their hands with a chlorinated solution before attending to women in labour, the mortality rate dropped from 13%-18% to less than 2%. What a life-saving discovery!

The right way to wash

To effectively rid your hands of harmful bacteria and germs that can lead to infection, follow these 5 easy steps - whenever you wash your hands.  

1. Wet your hands with clean running water.
Warm or cold water will do.

2. Apply soap and rub your hands together.
Lather soap all over your hands: on the backs, between fingers and underneath your fingernails.

3. Now scrub your hands.
Don’t be shy – 20 seconds of good scrubbing is necessary for a thorough clean.

4. Turn the tap back on and rinse well.
Like in step 1, the water must be clean and running.

5. Using a clean towel, dry your hands.
Alternatively, you can let them air dry.