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Br J Dermatol. 2000 Sep;143(3):546-50.

Skin tolerance and effectiveness of two hand decontamination procedures in everyday hospital use.

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Service de Médecine du Travail et des Risques Professionnels, Hôpital de la Timone, 7 Bd Jean Moulin, 13385 Marseille Cedex 5, France.



Hand decontamination is crucial to control nosocomial infections. The utility of hand decontamination is related not only to its antimicrobial effectiveness, but also to its acceptability by hospital staff.


We aimed to assess skin tolerance and antimicrobial effects of two widely accepted hand hygiene measures under in-use conditions.


Fifty-two nurses were randomly assigned for an 8-day period to either an alcohol-based disinfectant or a hand wash with a non-antiseptic soap. At baseline and at the end of the test period, microbiological hand samples were obtained both before and after a hand hygiene procedure, and skin tolerance was assessed using clinical scores and measurement of transepidermal water loss.


Self-assessment of skin condition and grade of skin damage worsened significantly more in the group using soap than in the group using alcoholic disinfectant (P = 0.004 and P = 0.01, respectively). The alcohol-based rinse was significantly more effective than liquid soap in removing transient contaminant micro-organisms (P = 0.016). Twenty of 50 hand washes with non-antiseptic soap apparently resulted in bacterial contamination of the hands. At the end of the study, the total bacterial count increased with the increasing number of hand washes in the soap group (P = 0.003), and with the degree of skin damage (P = 0.005) in the antiseptic group.


In everyday hospital practice, alcohol-based disinfectant is more effective and better tolerated than non-antiseptic soap; soap is at risk of spreading contamination; and skin comfort strongly influences the number and the quality of hand hygiene procedures.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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