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J Hosp Infect. 2001 Aug;48 Suppl A:S23-8.

Hand hygiene--comparison of international recommendations.

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Hygiene-Institut der Universit├Ąt Heidelberg, Germany.


The value of hand hygiene for the prevention of cross-infection was first observed in the middle of the 19th century. Since then, which procedure is the most suitable for hand hygiene has been repeatedly discussed and several different guidelines and recommendations have been published. The aim of this review is to compare different recommendations for hand hygiene regarding technique and indication. Medline, the internet and a personal library were searched to obtain as many written recommendations as possible. In addition, a small questionnaire was sent by e-mail to 20 international colleagues. As a result, written recommendations from 10 countries could be compared. Recommended methods of hand hygiene include handwashing (washing hands with plain soap), hygienic handwash (washing hands with medicated soap) and hygienic hand-rub (use of antiseptic rubs). In most countries handwashing and hygienic handwash are the methods of choice and only in central European countries is hygienic hand-rub the preferred technique. Situations in which performance of hand hygiene is recommended are comparable. However, no single indication is recommended in all guidelines. Hand hygiene is most often recommended before performing invasive procedures and after microbial contamination. Guidelines should be clear and easy to follow for them to become standard of care. Thus, guidelines are needed that do not leave to the health care worker a decision as to whether hand hygiene is indicated.

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