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Hand Care for Health Care Workers

Improved adherence to hand hygiene practices and multidisciplinary approaches to skin health may significantly impact patient outcomes and employee health.

Maintenance of intact, healthy skin reduces the risk of transmission of pathogenic organisms and the risk of occupationally related skin disease. Understanding the key components of an effective hand-care plan and implementing a therapeutic regime are fundamental components of any patient and employee safety program.

Hand washing and hand antisepsis

When hands are visibly dirty or contaminated or visibly soiled with blood or other body fluids, wash with water and either a non-antimicrobial soap or an antimicrobial soap.

1. When washing hands with soap and water:

- Wet hands first with water

- Apply the amount of product recommended by the manufacturer to hands

- Rub hands together vigorously for at least 15 seconds covering all surfaces of the hands and fingers.

2. Rinse hands thoroughly to remove all residual soap.

3. Dry hands with disposable single-use towels ensuring that the all skin and spaces between fingers are thoroughly dry without excessive friction

4. If hands are not visibly soiled, use an alcohol-based hand gel/foam for routinely decontaminating hands.

Concerns

Frequent and repeated use of hand hygiene products can compromise the skin barrier function and cause contact dermatitis.

Alcohol-based products may cause dryness and irritation of the skin.

Recommendations:

Select hand hygiene products with low irritancy potential.  GoJo Soap and Purrell Sanitiser are recommended by us.

Perform hand hygiene before glove donning and after glove removal.

Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for appropriate use of all products.

Dermal hydration and moisturisation

Preventing dry skin and reducing the risk of dermal irritation and contact dermatitis should be the goal of every health-care employer and employee.

Skin moisturisers are used to help prevent skin from becoming dry and to restore dry skin to its normal condition. The HSE (2007) recommends that health-care workers be provided with products that will minimise the occurrence of irritant dermatitis associated with hand antisepsis or hand washing.  GoJo Hand Medic is recommended by us.

Appropriate glove usage

Some individuals may experience a dermal reaction in response to either the chemicals in the formulation of natural rubber or synthetic gloves or to the protein allergens in natural rubber latex gloves.

Concerns

Repeated donning and removal of multiple pairs of gloves may cause a friction related irritation across the dorsum of the hands.

Prolonged wear may result in skin occlusion and either dryness or maceration.

Recommendations:

Select gloves with low irritancy potential.

Perform hand hygiene before glove donning and after glove removal.

Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for appropriate use of all products.

In conclusion

Early intervention, good hand care and adherence to work place policy on glove use and infection control should reduce the incidence of occupational skin conditions.