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Hand Hygiene: Infection Control/Exposure Control Issues for Oral Healthcare Workers

Géza T. Terézhalmy, DDS, MA; Michaell A. Huber, DDS

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HCWs should be provided with efficacious hand hygiene products that have low irritability potential and with hand lotions to minimize the occurrence of irritant contact dermatitis.  To maximize acceptance solicit input from HCWs regarding fragrance (smell), consistency, (i.e., “feel”), skin tolerance, and color.  Washing hands with soap and water after each use of alcohol-based hand-rub is not necessary and is not recommended, because it may lead to dermatitis.2  However, because personnel may feel a “build-up” of emollients on the hands after repeated use, washing hands with soap and water after 5 to 10 applications has been recommended by some manufacturers.

When selecting plain soaps, antimicrobial soaps, or alcohol-based hand rubs, solicit information from manufacturers regarding any known interactions between the hand hygiene products; skin care products; the type of gloves used in the healthcare setting; and ask about the risk of product contamination (do not add soap to a partially empty dispenser, “topping off” dispensers can lead to bacterial contamination of soap).  Before making purchasing decisions evaluate the dispenser system to make sure that it functions reliably, delivers an appropriate volume of product, and that the dispenser for alcohol-based formulations is approved for flammable materials.  The cost of hand hygiene products should not be the primary factor influencing product selection; however, it has been shown that the routine use of an alcohol-based hand rub is more cost effective than the use of an antimicrobial soap and water.40

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