Latex gloves lead to lax hand hygiene in hospitals, study finds

November 3, 2011

Healthcare workers who wear gloves while treating patients are much less likely to clean their hands before and after patient contact, according to a study published in the December issue of Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, the journal of the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America. This failure of basic hand hygiene could be contributing to the spread of infection in healthcare settings, the researchers say.

Glove use is appropriate for situations when contact with is anticipated or when patients are to be managed with contact precautions. However, use of gloves should not be considered a substitute for effective 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.

The researchers, led by Dr. Sheldon Stone of the Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust, observed more than 7,000 patient contacts in 56 intensive care and of the elderly wards in 15 United Kingdom hospitals, making this one of the largest and most detailed studies on gloves and their impact on hand hygiene. 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.

"The chances of hands being cleaned before or after patient contact appear to be substantially lower if gloves were being worn," said Dr. Stone, the principal investigator. "We call this the phenomenon of the 'Dirty Hand in the Latex Glove.'"

Though troubling, the results also reveal an opportunity to reduce healthcare associated infections by focusing further hand hygiene improvement efforts on better hand hygiene when using gloves. Doing so may prove the critical step in getting overall hand hygiene levels to the levels needed to prevent transmission of infection, the researchers say.

Dr. Stone and his colleagues suggest further study on the behavioral reasons behind why are less likely to wash their hands when wearing gloves. Regardless, the researchers recommend that campaigns such as the World Health Organization's Clean Care is Safer Care program should emphasize better hand hygiene associated with gloving practices.

Explore further: Study reports predictors of poor hand hygiene in an emergency department

Related Stories

Recommended for you

The 'love hormone' may quiet tinnitus

September 23, 2016

(HealthDay)—People suffering from chronic ringing in the ears—called tinnitus—may find some relief by spraying the hormone oxytocin in their nose, a small initial study by Brazilian researchers suggests.

Bile acid uptake inhibitor prevents NASH / fatty liver in mice

September 21, 2016

Drugs that interfere with bile acid recycling can prevent several aspects of NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis) in mice fed a high-fat diet, scientists from Emory University School of Medicine and Children's Healthcare of ...

New therapeutic target for Crohn's disease

September 20, 2016

Research from the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) identifies a promising new target for future drugs to treat inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). The study, published today in Cell Reports, also indicates ...

Mosquitoes, Zika and biotech regulation

September 19, 2016

In a new Policy Forum article in Science, NC State professor Jennifer Kuzma argues that federal authorities are missing an opportunity to revise outdated regulatory processes not fit for modern innovations in biotechnology, ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.