Researchers Explore Myths Associated with Alcohol-Based Handrubs


Professionals promoting hand hygiene (HH) with multimodal strategies featuring the introduction of alcohol-based handrub (ABHR) are confronted by a common set of impeding opinions regarding the indications, safety and efficacy of ABHR. Some of these could be referred to as HH myths.

Researchers from the University of Geneva Hospitals in Geneva, Switzerland undertook a review of the literature to assess the currently available evidence regarding five common barriers to the successful implementation ABHR: poor HH before patient contact; the risk of systemic absorption of alcohol; adverse dermatologic effects; risk of Clostridium difficile disease; and ABHR as a fire hazard.

Hand hygiene compliance is usually better after patient contact than before, despite a lack of evidence to suggest this is an effective means to prevent transmission of pathogens. Blood levels of ethanol and acetone after even supra-normal exposure are undetectable or insignificant. Appropriately formulated ABHR products are less likely to result in dermatitis than washing with soap and water. Appropriate implementation of hand hygiene guidelines does not result in Clostridium difficile infection incidence. Fire events related to ABHR are extremely rare and almost exclusively associated with inappropriate use.

The researchers conclude that like any medication, ABHRs do have potential adverse effects, but these can be minimized by appropriate usage. Rare or even mythic complications should be weighed realistically against the potential of ABHR to prevent countless healthcare-associated infections each year.

Reference: AJ Stewardson, B Allegranzi, H Sax, C Kilpatrick and D Pittet. Hand hygiene myths. Presentation at International Conference on Prevention & Infection Control (ICPIC). BMC Proceedings 2011, 5(Suppl 6):P101doi:10.1186/1753-6561-5-S6-P101.

Recent Videos
Rare Disease Month: An Infection Control Today® and Contagion® collaboration.
Lucy S. Witt, MD, investigates hospital bed's role in C difficile transmission, emphasizing room interactions and infection prevention
Chikungunya virus, 3D illustration. Emerging mosquito-borne RNA virus from Togaviridae family that can cause outbreaks of a debilitating arthritis-like disease   (Adobe Stock 126688070 by Dr Microbe)
Ambassador Deborah Birx, , speaks with Infection Control Today about masks in schools and the newest variant.
Woman lying in hospital bed (Adobe Stock, unknown)
Deborah Birx, MD
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  (Adobe Stock, unknown)
CDC (Adobe Stock, unknown)
Inside Track with Infection Control Today
Related Content