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Hand Hygiene

Course Number: 590

Antiseptic Handrub

Antiseptic handrub is defined as applying a waterless antiseptic agent (i.e., an antiseptic agent such as alcohol that does not require the use of exogenous water) to the hands. The FDA classifies ethanol, 60 to 95% formulations, as a Category I agent.12 The antiseptic activity of ethanol is attributed to its ability to denature proteins.17 Ethanol, 60-95% (expressed as percent by volume) is more effective than higher concentrations because proteins are not denatured easily in the absence of water.

Antiseptic handrub removes or destroys transient microorganisms and reduces the resident flora.2,13 The CDC and the WHO have concluded that an antiseptic handrub is more effective than handwashing or an antiseptic handwash and is recommended for routine hand hygiene in clinical situations when the hands are not visibly soiled.2,12,13 As noted earlier, the concurrent use of an alcohol-based handrub and an iodophor-based antimicrobial soap is contraindicated.

Follow the manufacturers’ recommendations regarding the volume of product to be used and perform antiseptic handrub for 20 to 30 seconds according to the technique described in Figure 2. Alcohol-based liquids, gels, or foam formulations are all acceptable. Contamination of alcohol-based products is remote.18 Alcohol-based handrub products are flammable and should be stored away from high temperatures (flash points range from 210°C to 240°C) or flames.19