According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the most common barrier to good hand hygiene technique amongst healthcare professionals is skin irritation. With this in mind, GOJO Industries-Europe Ltd. explains how to combat occupational dermatitis and improve adherence.

Awareness of good hand hygiene practice has rocketed since the beginning of the pandemic. As we emerge from lockdown and navigate the new normal, hand washing and sanitising remain key infection-prevention measures. However, this shiſt in behaviour appears to be causing dermatological problems, namely dryness, eczema, dermatitis, and skin irritation.

It’s not just mild discomfort that health and care workers suffer from, as irritation can also cause cracks in the skin on the hands. Damaged skin is more susceptible to colonisation by transient micro-organisms, which, in turn, increases the risk for transfer of potentially pathogenic micro-organisms to a susceptible patient or resident.

This is problematic because, if skin is sore or irritated, hands are much less likely to be washed effectively – or at all, in the belief that hospital-grade soaps and sanitisers will further exacerbate the aggravation. Research has shown that, pre-pandemic, healthcare staff cleaned their hands as many as 42 times per shiſt and up to 15.2 times per hour. Coronavirus has surely pushed these figures higher, so it is important that we care for the hardworking hands that are caring for others.

The first thing to consider is the choice of product. COVID-19 has prompted many companies to begin manufacturing hand hygiene products. The result is a slew of sanitising gels flooding the market. There are two main problems with these types of products.

Firstly, they may be effective against germs, but most have not been efficacy tested against viruses. Choose soaps or sanitisers whose efficacy against germs have been proven through independent scientific testing and conform to key hospital norms EN 1500, EN 14476 and EN 12791, which provide assurance that they are safe to use in healthcare settings.

Our PURELL Advanced Hygienic Hand Rub has been tested and proven to be effective against Coronavirus too. Earlier this year, it was tested against coronavirus BCoV (surrogate virus), according to EN 14476 standard and passed with a contact time of just 30 seconds.

The second issue is that they have been formulated to kill bacteria but lack the nourishing agents which care for skin. PURELL Advanced Hygienic Hand Rub includes moisturisers to keep skin healthy and feeling soſt and refreshed. It is perfect for when hands are not visibly soiled and, contrary to a popular myth, can be a friendlier choice for skin than soap and water.

Studies have shown that, when nurses used an alcohol-based hand rub with moisturising effect for two weeks, skin irritation and dryness decreased. Following two further weeks of the nurses using medicinal soap and water instead, scientists

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concluded that modern moisturising hand sanitising rub causes less skin discomfort.

However, for heavier soils, soap and water is a must. To avoid irritation, it is important that all soap is rinsed away and skin is thoroughly dried as water can also be an irritant. Frequent exposure to water causes swelling and shrinking of the outermost layer of the skin (stratum corneum), which can lead to dermatitis.

Using moisturisers will also help make the hand hygiene process more enjoyable, rehydrating and replenishing oils in the skin. This helps to decrease the risk of skin shedding, which can cause further irritation.

By choosing high-quality products with both caring and effective formulations, health and care facilities can ensure their staff’s hands are clean and healthy. This TLC goes a long way in boosting compliance and lowering the risk of infection.

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