The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings in October 2002. This document provides guidelines for selecting and using hand cleaning agents such as plain soap, alcohols, chlorhexidine (CHG), chloroxylenol (PCMX), hexachlorophene, iodine and iodophors, quaternary ammonium compounds, and triclosan. Becoming familiar with each of these product classifications will help you make informed choices for your practice setting.
Some of the issues to consider in selecting a handwashing agent:
- the type of procedure performed (i.e. surgical v. nonsurgical),
- how to make the agent readily available to all users,
- persistent antimicrobial activity (particularly for surgical hand asepsis),
- inhibition of the active ingredient in the presence of organic material such as blood, and
- user preferences.
For most routine procedures, washing with plain soap/detergent appears adequate. Use antimicrobial soap/agents/products for more invasive procedures, such as surgery. Conveniently placed sinks, towels, and soaps encourage their use. When possible, use alternative sink controls such as foot- or sensor-activated faucets. When you have to use your hands to turn off the water, use a paper towel to contact the faucet.
Vigorously rubbing lathered hands together under a stream of water for a minimum of ten seconds is adequate for routine handwashing. Always follow the handwashing agent's label instructions for contact time. Follow with thorough rinsing under a stream of water, then dry hands well.
For more handwashing info, check out CDC's Hand Hygiene FAQs.