Keeping hands clean and free from pathogens or high levels of microbial contamination is an important part of healthcare contamination control, and for preventing the spread of infection in hospitals. This requires the use of effective antiseptics and sanitisers and this article has outlined some of the issues in selection and use, which healthcare professionals need to be aware of.
Microbiological control within healthcare facilities and hospital pharmacy cleanrooms is of great importance to prevent the spread of contamination and for the prevention of nosocomial infections. This is achieved through correctly designed premises, using sterilised materials and through good hygiene controls. Hygiene is particularly important in healthcare settings to prevent the spread of contamination. One of the routes for the spreading of infection is via hands, whether gloved or ungloved, or through contaminated surfaces.
One way of achieving hygiene control is through the use of antiseptics and sanitisers. These chemical agents are biocides and are applied to the skin (antiseptics) or to gloved hands and to surfaces (sanitisers) to either reduce the number of microorganisms present by removing or destroying them. This article examines the selection and use of antiseptics and sanitisers in healthcare.
Personnel carry many types of microorganisms on their hands and such microorganisms can be readily transferred from person to person or from person to equipment, or critical surfaces. Such microorganisms are either present on the skin not multiplying - these are transient flora, which can include a range of environmental microorganisms like Staphylococcus and Pseudomonas. Alternatively they are multiplying microorganisms released from the skin - residential flora including the genera of Staphylococcus, Micrococcus and Propionibacterium. For critical operations, some protection is afforded by wearing gloves. However, gloves are not suitable for all activities and, if not regularly sanitised, or if they are of an unsuitable design, will pick up and transfer contamination.
Therefore, the application of antiseptics to hands and sanitisation of gloved hands is an important part of contamination control either in hospitals, to avoid staff-to-patient cross contamination, or prior to undertaking clinical or surgical procedures. This is also important prior to aseptic preparations like the dispensing of medicines. Moreover, not only is the use of a hand sanitiser needed prior to undertaking such applications, it is also important that the sanitiser is effective at eliminating a high population of bacteria. Studies have shown that if a low number of microorganisms persist after the application of an antiseptic or sanitiser, then the subpopulation can develop which is resistant to future applications.
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