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CDC recommends use of alcohol hand rubs
When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta released its new hand-hygiene guidelines in October 2002, alcohol-based handrubs were recommended. According to the CDC more widespread use of these products improve adherence to recommended hand hygiene practices, which increases patient safety and prevents infections.
Health care workers tend to use these hand rubs because it takes less time than traditional hand washing with soap and water. The product is applied to the palm of one hand and spread across all hand surfaces by rubbing the hands together until they are dry. The CDC estimates that a nurse on the intensive care unit will save one hour of time during an eight-hour shift by using an alcohol-based hand rub.
To promote use at health care facilities, the CDC recommends that administrators not only consider the efficacy of the hand rub against various pathogens but also its acceptability among personnel. Characteristics that might affect use include the smell of the alcohol-based hand rub, its consistency, color, and whether it dries hands out.
Although alcohol-based hand rubs significantly reduce the number of microorganisms on the skin, the CDC recommends that health care workers wash with soap and water if their hands are visibly soiled. The center also emphasizes that good hand hygiene does not eliminate the need for gloves. It estimates that gloves reduce hand contamination by as much as 80% and prevent cross-contamination. Their use protects patients and health care professionals from infection.
Each year nearly 2 million patients in hospitals throughout the United States get an infection, and about 90,000 die as a result. The CDC expects the hand rubs to help improve hand hygiene because they are more accessible than sinks thus personnel will be more likely to use them before and after working with each patient. To obtain a copy of the CDC hand washing guidelines, access the CDC web site at www.cdc.gov/handhygiene.
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