News - The Lack of Understanding of Hand Hygiene

May 16 2012

We read with great interest an article recently published by the Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/may/13/do-we-really-need-hand-sanitisers

Both the article and the following comments emphasised the confusion there is over what is best practice with hand hygiene. Unquestionably there has been great strides made with the introduction of alcohol based hand rubs and the reduction of healthcare acquired infections, linked with other key infection prevention and control measures.

The article is written in a manner that hand sanitisers equals alcohol based products, as we know there are a number of key issues related to the use of such products, some noted in the article but it is the companies who produce these types of hand sanitisers which benefit from the current confusion.

There are alternatives which are readily available which are non alcohol based, such as the Esense Antimicrobial Hand Rub and Natural Esense Hand Rub. These types of products offer a number of benefits over the alcohol based rubs currently used. and are seeing an increasing uptake in use when these benefits have been realised.

To pick out all the “confused” points in the Guardian article would make this blog posting far too long, however two points really jumped off the page.

Firstly from an experts comment, “These sanitisers state that they kill 99.9% of germs, but the difficulty is that the data was done on inanimate surfaces and they do not replicate what happens on the human hand”. This is not the case, the European Standard for testing hand sanitisers, EN1500 which is required to sell such products is conducted using a test standard number of pairs of hands.

The second point would relate to the comment “Spread of Diarrhoea and gastrointestinal illness can almost be halved by practising effective hand hygiene”, I would suggest this leans more to the use of anti-microbial hand washes and water. Why? because the really aggressive pathogens such as Norovirus and Clostridium Difficle are not “killed” by using alcohol based hand rubs. Some will argue that Norovirus is but there is currently no definitive answer. NICE as does many other bodies, recommends the use of hand wash and water when these two pathogens are present.

They are the main cause of ward closures in the UK and many other countries, yet we still see the current hand sanitiser of choice ABHR’s being used by healthcare workers, support staff and visitors to try and combat the spread of such pathogens.

So the confusion remains, not really clarified by this article. The alternatives to ABHR’s which have been extensively tested, and potentially not the ones readily available over the counter, are shown to be certainly equal to or better than ABHR’s in efficacy and offer a number of key benefits.