Study of the Day: Latex Gloves May Add to Hygiene Issues in Hospitals

New research shows that healthcare workers who wear gloves are much less likely to clean their hands before and after patient contact

main2 Yuri Arcurs shutterstock_83070793.jpg

PROBLEM: Gloves reduce germ transmission in situations where contact with body fluids is expected. Their use, however, is not a substitute for hand-washing before and after patient contact, since germs can still get through latex and hands can be contaminated by "back spray" when gloves are removed.

METHODOLOGY: Researchers in the U.K. led by Sheldon Stone of the Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust observed glove use and hand-hygiene practices involving 7,578 patient contacts in 56 intensive care units in 15 hospitals.

RESULTS: Gloves were used in just over a quarter of the patient contacts and were absent in 141 of 669 high-risk contacts. Use of gloves was strongly associated with poor hand hygiene as well. While only half of those who didn't wear gloves washed their hands before and after coming into contact with a patient, the rate for those who wore gloves was even lower at just 41.4 percent.

CONCLUSION: Hand hygiene is a serious problem in hospitals. Healthcare workers who wear gloves may be relying too much on their ability to prevent transmission, as they clean their hands before and after patient contact much less frequently.

IMPLICATION: This failure of basic hand hygiene could be contributing to the spread of infection, the researchers say in a statement. Hand-hygiene campaigns should consider placing greater emphasis on the World Health Organization's indications for glove use.

SOURCE: The full study, "The Dirty Hand in the Latex Glove: A Study of Hand-Hygiene Compliance When Gloves Are Worn," is published in the journal Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology.

Image: Yuri Arcurs/Shutterstock.

Presented by

Hans Villarica writes for and produces The Atlantic's Health channel. His work has appeared in TIME, People Asia, and Fast Company.

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How a Psychedelic Masterpiece Is Made

A short documentary about Bruce Riley, an artist who paints abstract wonders with poured resin

Videos

Why Is Google Making Skin?

Hidden away on Google’s campus, doctors are changing the way people think about health.

Video

How to Build a Tornado

A Canadian inventor believes his tornado machine could solve the world's energy crisis.

Video

A New York City Minute, Frozen in Time

This short film takes you on a whirling tour of the Big Apple

Video

What Happened to the Milky Way?

Light pollution has taken away our ability to see the stars. Can we save the night sky?

More in Health

Just In