Intact skin is an effective natural defence against the entry of pathogens and subsequent infection. Broken skin can be the site of bacterial growth and may facilitate the transmission of infection.
Skin can become dry and dermatitis can develop if handwashing water is too hot or too cold, if too much handwashing solution is used, or if hands are not thoroughly rinsed and dried. Gloves and latex allergy may also contribute to skin problems.
Drying hands after washing, the use of chemically compatible hand creams, and attending to breaks in the skin are essential aspects of hand care. Cuts and abrasions must be covered with water-resistant dressings before commencing or recommencing work. These need to be changed if they become soiled or loose.
If skin irritation occurs, hand hygiene technique should be reviewed. If a staff member develops a persistent skin irritation, or identifies a particular soap, antiseptic agent or alcohol-based product associated with skin irritation, they must consult the practice member with designated responsibility for infection control or work health and safety.
Clinical staff experiencing dermatitis or other skin disorders must seek medical advice before performing any activity that could pose a risk to themselves or to patients.