International Clean Hands Week and how to prevent eye infections

International Clean Hands Week and how to prevent eye infections

Wednesday, 20 September 2017
International Clean Hands Week and how to prevent eye infections

It’s officially International Clean Hands Week, and to highlight the importance of hand hygiene, we’re addressing some of the most commonly asked questions on hand washing and how it relates to contact lens care.

When it comes to keeping your contact lenses clean, there’s more to it than just picking the right solution. Fresh, dirt-free hands are essential to preventing infections when wearing lenses and are the number one cause of complications. Simply washing your hands with soap and water dramatically decreases, if not almost eradicates the risk of getting infections. Here’s a little bit more on why hand hygiene is an essential part of your contact lens routine and overall health….

Why is hand washing so important?

Most germs that lead to infections are spread from person to person or picked up from dirty surfaces. Only a small number are airborne. While the term ‘hand hygiene’ is often associated with hospitals attempting to reduce patient to patient infection, it isn’t just doctors and nurses that need to play close attention to the issue.

There are many hand hygiene related campaigns such as the Clean Hands Count Campaign created, by the CDC (Centers For Disease Control and Prevention), to address the topic of hand hygiene and encourage better practice both within the health profession and wider public.

What is meant by hand hygiene?

Hand hygiene is an effective way of preventing infections.

It’s a general term that refers to the use of soap/solution and water, or a waterless antimicrobial agent such as alcohol gel or disinfectant solutions/creams, to cleanse the surface of the hands.

Cleaning your hands after you’ve used the bathroom, before you handle food whilst cooking and eating and, of course, before you put in your contact lenses, is the simplest and yet one of the most effective ways of stopping the transfer of bacteria. If followed correctly, this dramatically reduces the number of microorganisms on our hands, preventing the risk of infectious organisms spreading.

Clean hands

Why should you wash your hands?

Many diseases and conditions are spread by failing to wash your hands with an effective cleansing agent and clean running water. As well as touching various surfaces during the day, people also frequently touch their nose, eyes and mouth, often without being conscious of it. Germs can get into our systems this way.

In the absence of this, some people may opt to use hand sanitiser/alcohol gel, but there a few things you should keep in mind when using these. Alcohol-based hand sanitiser will kill a good number of bacteria, but not all. For example, alcohol based hand sanitizer does not kill C.difficile, which commonly causes diarrhoea.

According to research information collected by the CDC, teaching people about handwashing helps them and their communities stay healthy. Frequent and thorough handwashing has been shown to: Reduce the number of people who get sick with diarrhea by 31% (1, 2) Reduce diarrhoeal illness in people with weakened immune systems by 58% (3) Reduce respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21% (2, 4)

Handling contact lenses

Why is hand hygiene important when wearing contact lenses?

Failure to wash your hands whilst handling contact lenses can transfer bacteria and debris into the eye leading to infections, while it can also aggravate conditions such as blepharitis. In very rare occurrences, poor hand hygiene also puts you at risk of more serious conditions such as acanthamoeba keratitis which may result in permanent visual impairment or blindness and is very difficult to treat.

For more information on how to insert and remove your contact lenses, check out our lens fitting page.

Always remember to wash your hands before and after handling lenses and stay healthy this International Clean Hands Week and beyond.

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