Kids Health Info

Hand Hygiene - why is it so important

  • All patients (adults, children and babies) are at risk of getting illnesses caused by germs found in hospitals. Many germs are spread from person to person simply by touching (i.e. germs on hands after touching a piece of equipment or a sick child).

    Doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers should wash their hands before and after each patient they see. It is policy at The Royal Children's Hospital to practice hand hygiene and for staff to instruct visitors to perform hand hygiene. All parents, patients and caregivers should ask staff members "Have you washed your hands?"

    What are germs?

    There are many different types of germs, such as viruses or bacteria. Germs can make people sick. You can get germs on your hands when you touch objects and when you touch other people. Once germs are on your hands, they can get inside your body through a wound or when you touch your eyes, nose or mouth. You can also spread germs on your hands to objects or people that you touch. The most common infections are spread through touching.

    How can we stop the spread of germs?

    Washing your hands and your children's hands is the best thing you can do to stop the spread of germs. There are also antiseptic 'gels' that you can rub into your hands to stop the spread of infections in the hospital. You will find these gels in the wards and around the hospital. The Equipment Distribution Centre also stocks hand gels for purchase.  You can also purchase them from supermarkets and pharmacies.

    When to wash your hands


    • entering a ward
    • preparing or eating food      
    • breastfeeding
    • feeding a child           
    • giving medication to a child
    • touching, cuddling or holding a sick child     


    • changing a nappy
    • helping a child use the toilet
    • using the toilet yourself 
    • wiping your nose or your child's nose
    • touching, cuddling or holding your child
    • after you use the bathroom
    • your hands have become dirty

    How to wash your hands?

    Developed by the   Infection Control Department. First published 2004. November 2010.

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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.