Washing Your Hands

An Easy Way for Liver Transplant Patients to Avoid Infection

Washing your hands is an activity you do every day; why would you need instructions? The answer to that question is that some methods of hand-washing are more effective than others. When you or someone in your family has had a liver transplant or is waiting to receive one, you may have an access device (such as a catheter or a TPN infusion port). When handling these devices, it's more important than ever to keep your environment as free of germs as possible. Even normal germs, which are harmless on your skin or in your mouth, can be very dangerous if they find their way inside the body through the new pathway made by an access device. Whether preparing for routine care of a catheter or for a TPN feeding, you can minimize the risk of infection by following these steps when washing your hands:

  1. Before you begin washing your hands, make sure you've already finished any steps (such as opening a shipping carton) that might get your hands dirty.
  2. Take off all rings, watches, and any other jewelry you might be wearing on your hands or wrists.
  3. Turn on the faucet and adjust the temperature. The water should be comfortably warm, not hot. Using hot water might dry out and chap your hands over time; in addition, the uncomfortable temperature might make you less inclined to keep your hands underwater long enough to do the job.
  4. Wet your hands and forearms under the running water.
  5. Work a good germicidal soap into lather, starting with your fingertips and moving up towards your forearms. Try to keep your hands at a downward angle, lower than your elbows. This way, dirty water won't run back onto your arms. If you're not sure what the best kind of soap to use is, ask your health care provider for recommendations.
  6. Continue to scrub your hands together for about two minutes. Two minutes may seem like a long time, but this gives the water an opportunity to wash the maximum amount of germs off. While you are doing this, interlace your fingers to clean between them. Don't forget to wash under your fingernails, too.
  7. Rinse your hands thoroughly under the running water.
  8. Now you're almost finished; dry your hands off with clean paper towels or a clean hand towel.
  9. When you turn off the faucet, use a clean paper towel or hand towel to prevent picking up more germs from the handle.
  10. Throw the paper towel away. If you use hand towels, keep a hamper or other container by the sink for convenience. Put your hand towels in to be washed after one use.

Learn more about Liver Transplant Safety and Best Practices.