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Am J Infect Control. 2003 Feb;31(1):43-8.

Adverse reactions associated with an alcohol-based hand antiseptic among nurses in a neonatal intensive care unit.

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Columbia University School of Nursing, New York, NY 10032, USA.



Alcohol-based hand antiseptics are strongly recommended in the 2002 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's hand-hygiene guideline. In a study comparing 2 hand-hygiene regimes, an alcohol-based (61% ethyl) antiseptic and a detergent containing 2% chlorhexidine gluconate in 2 neonatal intensive care units, we noted adverse reactions associated with the alcohol-based antiseptic.


A prospective study was conducted of the skin condition of 58 nurses using an alcohol-based product from March 2001 to January 2002. Adverse reactions to the alcohol-based product were noted and the Fisher exact test was used to determine factors associated with these reactions. Nurses with reactions to the alcohol product who were available to follow-up were patch tested to the product.


Of 58 (1.1/100 nursing mo) nurses, 7 were evaluated by occupational health services for dermatologic symptoms that varied from mild to severe after use of the alcohol product, but 4 of 7 have resumed use. Nurses who had adverse reactions develop had been employed on the study unit and in the nursing profession for significantly less time than those with no reactions (P =.037 and P =.002, respectively), and were significantly more likely to report a history of itchy, sore skin (P =.047). A positive patch-test result was noted in 3 of 4 nurses with a previous reaction to the product.


This case series will alert users in the United States and elsewhere to the nature of reactions to alcohol products and how these reactions differ from reactions to traditional hand antiseptic products.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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