Hand hygiene is a first-rate public health tool for parents, children, caregivers and health workers, as it avoids or minimizes the risk of contagion of all types of diseases. This was recalled last week by various health institutions, on the occasion of World Hand Hygiene Day, held on May 5. Soapy water, alcohol-based hand sanitizers and gloves are the main and proven weapons in the service of the spread of infectious diseases.
José Luis Alfonso Sánchez, vice president of the Spanish Society of Preventive Medicine, Public Health and Hygiene (Sempsph), consulted by Pharmaceutical Courier, insists that there are a lot of infectious pathologies that can be spread from one person to another by contaminated hands, and in which washing and wearing gloves is essential. These include “gastrointestinal infections, such as salmonellosis or shigellosis, and respiratory infections, such as those caused by influenza or mycobacterium.” As an example, the Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEP) confirms that frequent hand washing by parents, professionals and caregivers, as well as those under three years of age, reduces the prevalence of respiratory infections between 20 and 30 percent, according to a study published in Pediatrics.
Alfonso Sánchez insists on the importance of this practice, especially since multiresistant pathogens can cause serious complications in people with some forms of gastrointestinal and respiratory infections, especially in young children, the elderly and those with a weakened immune system.
What is the best method
The question that arises is: what are the best products for hand washing? The vice president of the Sempsph explains that we must distinguish when the hands are visibly dirty (for example, by blood or body fluids) from when they are not apparently. In the first case, it is recommended to use soap and water. “It is also indicated when there are infections due to Clostridium difficile or Candida auris,” he adds. Gerardo Rodríguez Martínez, coordinator of the Health Promotion Committee of the AEP, recalls that it is an “accessible, classic and valid method for any medium and person, and that it has shown efficacy”.
On the other hand, when the hands are not dirty, an alcohol-based disinfectant can be used. “In this situation it is recommended because it acts on gram positive and negative germs, mycobacteria, fungi and viruses and its action is very fast (1 minute).” According to its indications, the optimum alcohol concentration should be between 60 and 95 percent and not have persistent activity, ”adds Alfonso Sánchez.
Cristina Vico, of the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (AEDV), recalls that the boom of hydroalcoholic gels arises with the increase of devices with these solutions that hospitals and health centers offer to patients and companions. But he clarifies: “Multiple studies show that hand sanitizers have their main role precisely in these environments, in hospitals, where the hands come into contact with microorganisms without presenting excessive dirt. In community settings, where the hands may be dirtier or have more fat, these disinfectants do not work well. ”
It also warns that, from the dermatological point of view, “subjecting the skin of the hands to a constant washing can cause contact dermatitis due to the irritant effect of both hydroalcoholic solutions and frequent contact with water and soap.” According to the expert, in most cases, with increasing the usual hydration, it is enough. ”
Another option is that the product of choice contains moisturizers, which do not inhibit the action of alcohol or oils to increase skin hydration and replace skin lipids, which are altered or depleted, says the spokesman for the Sempsph.
It is recommended that alcohol solutions also contain moisturizers and / or oils so that the skin is hydrated
And the gloves?
Regarding gloves (which can be made of latex, vinyl or nitrile), Rodríguez Martínez defends that they are reserved for techniques that need asepsis in hospital settings and health centers, especially for the management of utensils and invasive techniques (sutures, punctures , soundings, etc.) ”.
From the same opinion is Vico, who states that its use “is not systematically necessary for the prevention of common infectious diseases.”
In the blacksmith’s house, wooden spoon
The World Health Organization says that 61 percent of healthcare workers do not wash their hands when necessary and 31 percent of patients get an infection in the surgical area. From the Vithas Nisa group it is remembered that during the usual tasks.