Fifteen seconds. That is all it takes to clean your hands with hand sanitizers to provide optimal infection prevention and control.
Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are increasingly popular as a quick, convenient way to protect against the spread of organisms. However, data regarding optimal usage have been slim. Researchers in Switzerland set out to determine how to best use hand sanitizers to prevent the spread of bacteria (Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol 2017;38:547-552).
Thirty-two health care professionals participated in 123 trials to test the reduction of Escherichia coli ATCC 10536. Following exposure to the bacterium, hand rubbing, with 3 mL of an alcohol-based hand rub, was performed for 10, 15, 20, 30, 45 or 60 seconds, using the World Health Organization’s protocol. Potential variances in bacterial rates due to hand size and sex were addressed with a generalized linear mixed model with a random effect on the participants. The investigators found that all durations of hand rubbing led to significant reductions in bacterial counts (P<0.001).
Reductions in bacteria rates achieved after 10, 15 or 20 seconds of hand rubbing were not significantly different from those obtained after 30 seconds. Additionally, the mean bacterial reduction after 15 seconds of hand rubbing was 0.11 log10 lower (95% CI, 0.46-0.24) than after 30 seconds, which demonstrated noninferiority.
Hand rubbing for 15 seconds was equal to 30 seconds in reducing bacterial counts on the hands, and rubbing for longer than 30 seconds produced no additional reduction of bacterial counts.
“This study was designed for quite some time,” commented Didier Pittet, MD, the director of the infection control program and WHO Collaborating Centre on Patient Safety Solutions at the University of Geneva Hospitals, and a co-author of the study. “It confirms that, by applying the correct technique when rubbing hands with alcohol, health care workers can clean their hands within 15 seconds.”
Dr. Pittet noted that these data are particularly useful for busy health care professionals dedicated to fitting optimal hand hygiene into their busy schedules. “This is really important considering the high workload on staff and difficulties to comply with hand hygiene practices,” he said.