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Skin reactions related to hand hygiene and selection of hand hygiene products

      Background

      In October 2004, The World Health Organization (WHO) launched the World Alliance for Patient Safety. Within the alliance, the first priority of the Global Patient Safety Challenge is to reduce health care-associated infection. A key action within the challenge is to promote hand hygiene in health care globally as well as at the country level through the campaign “Clean Care is Safer Care.” As a result, the WHO is developing Guidelines on Hand Hygiene in Health Care, designed to be applicable throughout the world.

      Methods

      This paper summarizes one component of the global WHO guidelines related to the impact of hand hygiene on the skin of health care personnel, including a discussion of types of skin reactions associated with hand hygiene, methods to reduce adverse reactions, and factors to consider when selecting hand hygiene products.

      Results

      Health care professionals have a higher prevalence of skin irritation than seen in the general population because of the necessity for frequent hand hygiene during patient care.

      Conclusion

      Ways to minimize adverse effects of hand hygiene include selecting less irritating products, using skin moisturizers, and modifying certain hand hygiene practices such as unnecessary washing. Institutions need to consider several factors when selecting hand hygiene products: dermal tolerance and aesthetic preferences of users as well as practical considerations such as convenience, storage, and costs.
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