Assessment of alternative hand hygiene regimens to improve skin health among neonatal intensive care unit nurses

Heart Lung. Mar-Apr 2000;29(2):136-42.


Objective: The frequent handwashing and gloving required in high-risk, high-volume patient care areas such as critical care units damages skin of the hands. The purpose of this exploratory study was to compare 2 hand care regimens (traditional antiseptic wash with chlorhexidine-containing detergent versus mild soap wash with subsequent alcohol-based rinse for degerming as necessary) in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Design: Prospective, quasi-experimental, random assignment.

Setting: One NICU (47 beds) in a New York City children's hospital.

Subjects: Sixteen full-time NICU nurses.

Outcome measures: Microbial flora and skin condition of hands.

Intervention: Nurses were randomly assigned to one of the 2 hand care regimens.

Results: No significant differences in microbial counts or types of organisms from hands of staff were found, but after 2 weeks nurses in the mild soap and alcohol group had significant improvements in their skin condition (P =.005).

Conclusions: Use of a mild soap for cleaning and an alcohol-based product for degerming may offer an acceptable alternative to the traditional antiseptic handwash and may reduce skin damage to health care professionals' hands.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 2-Propanol
  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local* / adverse effects
  • Chlorhexidine / adverse effects
  • Hand / microbiology
  • Hand Disinfection / methods*
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / standards*
  • Neonatal Nursing
  • Prospective Studies
  • Skin / microbiology*
  • Skin Care / methods
  • Soaps


  • Anti-Infective Agents, Local
  • Soaps
  • 2-Propanol
  • Chlorhexidine