Hand disinfection is the most important individual measure to break the chain of infection in healthcare facilities and, for example, prevents the spread of antibiotic-resistant pathogens. Depending on the occupational group and field of work, hand hygiene compliance averages between 41 % and 55 %, with a wide range of variation1 – and thus is not satisfactory. The reasons are manifold and are, for example, attributed to high workloads and a lack of awareness of the hand hygiene’s significance. Hence, the BODE SCIENCE CENTER supports the efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO)2 to enhance the acceptance of hand disinfection.
This, however, not only applies to healthcare workers. The Robert Koch-Institute (RKI) advocates that patients and visitors regularly disinfect their hands as well, as this has been shown to also prevent the spread of pathogens1.
Hand disinfection at home
According to current research, there are situations in which hand disinfection has an advantage in terms of infection protection at home:
- In case of communicable infectious diseases such as a cold to reduce the risk of a spread to healthy housemates3; the ill person should for example disinfect the hands before having contact to other persons; healthy people can protect themselves by disinfecting their hands after contact with an ill person.
- Before having contact with family members, who are cared for at home and are immunocompromised or have chronic wounds3. This is to protect the family member in need of care. And when patients need home care after early hospital discharge3.
- When having contact with, for example, immunosuppressed relatives and friends, who are at risk of acquiring an infection3.
- While travelling: situations that involve a risk of coming into contact with pathogens and in which there is no clean water available for a handwash.
For journeys, the German Foreign Office recommends “disinfecting hands, where appropriate”4, for example after using the toilet and before eating.
Development of resistances – no problem with alcohol-based hand disinfectants
Usually, hand disinfectants with alcohol-based active ingredients are used in Germany. Due to the alcohols’ unspecific mode of action, “there is no development of resistance known or to be expected”, as stated by RKI5.
Allergies: Tolerability of hand disinfectants
In addition to a reviewed efficacy, skin compatibility is among the most important properties of hand disinfectants. WHO, RKI and medical societies consider alcohol-based hand disinfectants the “gold standard” in hand disinfection6. RKI classifies alcohol-based hand disinfectants as “considerably more tolerable than preparations for washing hands”5. Allergies to alcohols are extremely rare. A ten-year study at a 1 000-bed hospital and with data on more than 3 500 employees did not reveal a single allergy to the alcohol-based hand disinfectant used7.