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J Hosp Infect. 2003 Sep;55(1):1-7.

Dermatological aspects of a successful introduction and continuation of alcohol-based hand rubs for hygienic hand disinfection.

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Bode Chemie GmbH and Co., Scientific Affairs, Melanchthonstr. 27, 22525 Hamburg, Germany.


With the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guideline on hand hygiene, hospitals often introduce alcohol-based hand rubs for hand disinfection. Healthcare workers, however, may reject the new products because of skin irritation or other skin-related problems, which they experience after years of handwashing. In order to facilitate a successful introduction and continued use of alcohol-based hand rubs in hospitals, we have reviewed and summarized the major studies on the topic. Occupational hand dermatitis may occur in up to 30% of healthcare workers. It is mainly described as an irritant contact dermatitis caused by detergents. The diagnosis is usually clinical. Allergic reactions are very rare. After using an alcohol-based hand rub for the first time, healthcare workers may have a burning skin sensation that can be explained by pre-irritated skin. In this case the skin barrier has usually been impaired by frequent handwashing or occlusive gloves. This may result in a vicious circle whereby the healthcare worker increases the frequency of handwashing and reduces the frequency of hand disinfection. Prevention of irritant contact dermatitis is possible by selection of a low-irritating hand rub, which contains emollients, the correct use of the hand rub and a clear guideline when to disinfect and wash hands in the clinical setting. Common mistakes in the use of alcohol-based hand rubs are application to pre-irritated skin and washing hands before hand disinfection, which is, in general, not necessary, or after hand disinfection, which results in washing off the emollients. Clear preparation and guidance of healthcare workers before the introduction of alcohol-based hand rubs can help to enhance compliance in hand hygiene. The switch from handwash to alcohol-based hand rub will improve healthcare workers skin if mistakes are avoided and hand rinses are used correctly.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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