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Clin Infect Dis. 2000 Jul;31(1):136-43. Epub 2000 Jul 26.

Replace hand washing with use of a waterless alcohol hand rub?

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Division of Hospital Epidemiology, University Hospitals, Basel, Switzerland.


Hand hygiene is one of the basic components of any infection control program and is frequently considered synonymous with hand washing. However, health care workers frequently do not wash their hands, and compliance rarely exceeds 40%. Hand rubbing with a waterless, alcohol-based rub-in cleanser is commonly used in many European countries instead of hand washing. Scientific evidence and ease of use support employment of a hand rub for routine hand hygiene. It is microbiologically more effective in vitro and in vivo, it saves time, and preliminary data demonstrate better compliance than with hand washing. Therefore, a task force comprising experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and from professional societies is designing guidelines for the use of a hand rub in the United States. Today, most countries of Northern Europe recommend a hand rub for hand hygiene unless the hands are visibly soiled. Side effects are rare and are mainly related to dryness of the skin. This review evaluates the scientific and clinical evidence that support the use of alcohol-based hand rubs in health care facilities as a new option for hand hygiene.

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