World Hand Hygiene Day – 5th May

Every year since 2009 on 5th May, we have celebrated World Hand Hygiene Day.

Its aim is to continually promote and maintain sustainability of hand hygiene in health care and to bring people together to support hand hygiene improvement around the world.

This year’s theme is recognising that through cleaning our hands we can add to a facility’s culture of safety and quality, and that this will encourage people to clean their hands at the right times with the right products.

To understand the importance of hand hygiene, here are some facts from Hartmann Science Centre. Did you know:

  • Adequate hand hygiene prevents up to 50% of preventable nosocomial infections
  • Globally, 1 in 4 health facilities lacks a basic water supply, which affects the health care of 1.8 billion people
  • Hand hygiene compliance rarely exceeds 70% even in high-income countries
  • In Europe, 8.9 million nosocomial infections occur annually in acute and long-term care facilities


To prioritise clean hands in health facilities, people at all levels need to understand and believe in the importance of hand hygiene and Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) to save lives. This way, both patients and healthcare workers feel protected.

World Hand Hygiene Day also highlights the importance of health workers leading by example with washing their hands. There are 5 key moments that they should wash their hands for:

  • Before touching a patient
  • Before clean/aseptic procedures
  • After body fluid exposure/risk
  • After touching a patient
  • After touching patient surroundings

This campaign is particularly useful for industries that involve food handling or, of course, the medical industry. However, it is still important for the general public to wash their hands properly and often. It can help prevent the spread of infections such as respiratory illnesses or the common cold.

Our hands are a key part of our body that can share and spread germs. So, along with ensuring we all thoroughly wash our hands, we should try to touch our eyes, nose, and mouth as little as possible, especially if we have not washed our hands for a while.You may think you know how to wash your hands, but the World Health Organisation has also provided a detailed step-by-step guide for how to wash our hands properly. The duration should last 40-60 seconds:

  1. Wet hands with water
  2. Apply soap – enough to cover all hand surfaces
  3. Rub hands palm to palm
  4. Right palm over left dorsum with interlaced fingers and vice versa
  5. Palm to palm with fingers interlaced
  6. Backs of fingers to opposing palms with fingers interlocked
  7. Rotational rubbing of left thumb clasped in right palm and vice versa
  8. Rotational rubbing, backwards and forwards, with clasped fingers of right hand in left palm and vice versa
  9. Rinse hands with water
  10. Dry hands thoroughly with a single use towel
  11. Use towel to turn off tap

It is important that we all work together and do our part in light of World Hand Hygiene Day, and the rest of the year too. Trying to stop the spread of germs where possible can save lives. Read more information about World Hand Hygiene Day here.

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