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Clin Infect Dis. 1999 Nov;29(5):1287-94.

Skin hygiene and infection prevention: more of the same or different approaches?

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Columbia University School of Nursing, 630 West 168th Street, New York, New York 10032, USA.


The purpose of this article is to review research indicating a link between hand hygiene and nosocomial infections and the effects of hand care practices on skin integrity and to make recommendations for potential changes in clinical practice and for further research regarding hand hygiene practices. Despite some methodological flaws and data gaps, evidence for a causal relationship between hand hygiene and reduced transmission of infections is convincing, but frequent handwashing causes skin damage, with resultant changes in microbial flora, increased skin shedding, and risk of transmission of microorganisms, suggesting that some traditional hand hygiene practices warrant reexamination. Some recommended changes in practice include use of waterless alcohol-based products rather than detergent-based antiseptics, modifications in lengthy surgical scrub protocols, and incorporation of moisturizers into skin care regimens of health care professionals.

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