Avera Medical Minute: Proper Handwashing techniques

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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KSFY) - Colds, flu, and germs are everywhere until we get rid of them. That's what handwashing awareness week is all about; making sure you know the best way to keep your family healthy and safe.


Let's start with killing germs at the hospital level. At Avera, instruments are sterilized in a multi-step process, more than even required by law, according to Avera Nurse Manager Jamie Ingalls. It starts with an initial scrub down in the O-R. Then they're sent to be sterilized. "We actually put the scope in a bin and then we use a red little shower cap or red liner to indicate the scope is dirty and not to be used. We send it down the elevator to the processing area and the re-processing steps," said Ingalls.

There's more scrubbing. "Before they go into our processors, we actually ATP test them, which tests for microorganisms that could be growing on the scopes even after we wash them," said Ingalls.

While in storage, specialized airflow and lighting ensure they stay germ-free. A lot of thought has been put into keeping rooms and surfaces clean. "Automatic door openers so you don't have to touch the wall or the door handles in and out of patient procedure rooms, and then one of the coolest things I think is the LED lights that actually kill or reduce bacteria count," said Ingalls. "After you've cleaned the room you turn the lights on and it does the cleaning."

Keeping germs and spores at bay is just as important at home. Avera Infection Prevention and Control Program Manager Judy Lamphron says it all starts with washing your hands. "We're very much aware of what's out in the community and the potential to come into our facility," said Lamphron.

Common mistakes that put germs right back on your hands come from leaving a ring on the counter while you wash or wiping down the counter, which puts the germs right back on your hands.

Hand sanitizer can also be very effective. "Just a squirt about a nickel-sized amount. rub it into your hands, let it dry and you're good to go," said Lamphron.

But every situation is different. "We recommend not using alcohol or gel before eating or after using the restroom," said Lamphron. "You should use soap and water in those situations."

And finally, teach your kids early. proper handwashing techniques early can lead to healthy habits for a lifetime.