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NICU Hand Washing and Hygiene

(757) 668-7000


Germs cause many illnesses. To help decrease the spread of germs, we must all take special care. Hand washing/ hygiene is one of the MOST effective ways to prevent the spread of germs. In the NICU you will use antiseptic soap to help remove and kill germs and alcohol hand sanitizers to kill germs on your hands, wrists, and arms. Good hand hygiene will help keep both you and your child healthier.

When you and any visitor come to visit your child you should wash with soap and water for 2-3 minutes at one of the scrub sinks in the pod before going to the baby’s bedside.

  1. Please remove all your jewelry from fingertips to elbows. Place any items in your purse or pockets for safekeeping.
  2. Make sure your sleeves are secured above the elbows.
  3. Adjust the water temperature and wet your hands and arms before getting soap. If at a foot controlled sink, turn the water off. (If the sink is hand controlled leave the water running until you are ready to rinse.)
  4. Obtain soap from the foot pump and rub hands together to create friction and lather.
  5. Wash each finger individually giving special attention to the nails, knuckles and spaces between the fingers. Use the nail picks available at the sink to clean under your nails. Wash wrists and arms.
  6. A complete hand washing (2-3 minutes) is required vs. “washing up”. Use the timer available at the sink.
  7. Rinse hands and arms well, holding them downward.
  8. Dry thoroughly with paper towels. Keep sleeves above elbows.
  9. The hand sanitizer liquid located at your baby's bedside should be used in between care giving activities such as feeding, diaper changes and patient contacts (example: twins). Apply hand sanitizer to all areas of the hand and up to the wrist. You should use it each time you leave your baby's bedside and when you leave the room. Even, if you go to the phone in the center of the pod, you should use the hand sanitizer before and after using the phone.
  10. The hand sanitizer is the preferred method of hand hygiene when hands are not visibly soiled. In most cases, the hand sanitizer is also better for keeping the skin on your hands healthier.
  11. Personnel and families are required to use the hand washing and hand sanitizing solutions provided by the hospital, unless there are documented medical reasons to use other products. Your hands may be carrying germs whether you know it or not, so it is especially important to wash your hands or use the alcohol hand sanitizer. 
  12. You should always use soap and water if you have some physical soil, such as milk, stool, or nasal draingage, on your hands.

    Use soap and water:

    • after using the toilet and/or flushing the toilet
    • after blowing or wiping your child’s or your nose
    • before and after you eat or touch any food
    • after changing your baby’s diaper if you get anything on your hands, otherwise use the hand sanitizer

    Use soap and water OR alcohol hand sanitizer:

    • after brushing or rearranging your child’s or your hair
    • before and after you touch your face
    • before you touch a newborn baby or someone who is sick
    • before and after you feed your infant
    • before and after you use the telephone

    If your baby’s pacifier or bottle falls on the floor, you should get a new one while your baby is in the NICU. At home these should be cleaned with hot soapy water or the dishwasher.


    Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your child's physician. The content provided on this page is for informational purposes only, and was not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease. Please consult your child's physician with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a medical condition.

    Reviewed: 07/2008

    (757) 668-7000