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Welcome Visitors - But Not Their Germs

Working together to promote hand hygiene

By Laura Kuhn

Even though it feels like summer just got here, fall is right around the corner, bringing with it cooler temperatures, clothing with longer sleeves and – much to the chagrin of children everywhere – a new school year. Unfortunately, many students bring unwanted guests to and from school with them: germs! How can you prevent the grandchildren and other guests who visit your residents from bringing germs into the facility? One key strategy is effective hand hygiene. Nursing home staff, residents and visitors can all work together to kick germs to the curb.

Who, what, when?

The CDC recommends that residents take a proactive role in encouraging their guests to practice good hand hygiene while at the facility. Residents, guests and staff should clean their hands1:

  • Before preparing or eating food
  • After using the restroom
  • After blowing their noses, coughing or sneezing
  • Before touching their eyes, nose or mouth
  • After touching surfaces that could be contaminated with germs, including bed rails, bedside tables, doorknobs, remote controls and the telephone

Additionally, staff members at long-term care facilities should clean their hands before donning gloves (gloves alone aren’t enough to halt the spread of infection), after removing gloves and every time they enter a resident room.1

Many facilities have found that placing pump-top bottles of hand sanitizer just inside the entrance to the building along with a flyer asking guests to sanitize their hands is a great way to help keep germs from entering the building. These bottles and signs can also be placed in other common areas of the facility where guests and residents are likely to congregate.

Soap or sanitizer?

The CDC recommends that hands are washed with soap and water whenever they look dirty, after using the bathroom and before eating or preparing food. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are appropriate when there is no visible dirt on the hands or when soap and water are not available. Keep in mind that hand sanitizers should contain between 60 and 95 percent alcohol.


  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hand Hygiene Saves Lives: A Patient’s Guide.
    Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/handhygiene/PDF/CDC_HandHygiene_Brochure.pdf. Accessed August 29, 2011.