Study Suggests Latex Gloves Lead to Lax Hand Hygiene

Healthcare workers who wear gloves while treating patients are much less likely to wash their hands before and after patient contact, according to a study published in the December issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

For their study, researchers observed more than 7,000 patient contacts in 56 intensive care and acute-care elderly wards in 15 United Kingdom hospitals. Overall, the study found that hand hygiene compliance was "disappointingly low," at just 47.7 percent. Compliance was even lower in instances where gloves were worn, dipping to just over 41 percent.


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Glove use is appropriate for situations when contact with body fluids is anticipated or when patients are to be managed with contact precautions. However, use of gloves should not be considered a substitute for effective hand hygiene practices taking place before and after patient contact. Although gloves can reduce the number of germs transmitted to the hands, germs can sometimes still get through latex. Hands can also be contaminated by "back spray" when gloves are removed after contact with body fluids.

Related Articles on Hand Hygiene:

Case Study: Reducing C. Diff. at Alabama's Huntsville Hospital
FAQs on Hand Hygiene National Patient Safety Goal
12 Questions to Ask to Ensure an Effective Hand Hygiene Program

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