Face touching is a habit: Raise awareness to raise hand hygiene compliance

Healthcare workers touch their faces multiple times each hour, and raising awareness of this habit and its effects could improve hand hygiene compliance, according to a study in the American Journal of Infection Control.

Healthcare workers could spread germs and get sick themselves if they don't practice hand hygiene after patient contact or after contact with a contaminated environment and then touch their face — and this study shows workers touch their face quite often.

Via video, researchers looked at the face-touching behavior of medical students at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. On average, the students touched their face 23 times each hour. Of all of the face touches, 44 percent involved contact with a mucous membrane (36 percent involved the mouth, 31 percent involved the nose and 27 percent involved the eyes). This habit, coupled with poor hand hygiene, can lead to a healthcare worker

This information can be used to raise hand hygiene compliance, according to the study authors. "Hand hygiene programs aiming to improve compliance with before and after patient contact should include a message that mouth and nose touching is a common practice," they wrote. "Hand hygiene is therefore an essential and inexpensive preventive method to break the colonization and transmission cycle associated with self-inoculation."

More articles on hand hygiene:
Healthcare: Where some of the most skilled professionals don't wash their hands
What causes hand hygiene noncompliance? 24 issues
Improve hand hygiene by targeting specific noncompliance issues

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