Hand Dermatitis in Intensive Care Units

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An investigation of the prevalence of occupational hand dermatitis in two intensive care units at a large teaching hospital was conducted. Information concerning the presence of occupational hand dermatitis, frequency of hand-washing, severity of the rash, aggravating conditions, history of atopy, and demographic factors (age, race, gender, and occupation) was collected via a self-administered questionnaire. The prevalence of occupational hand dermatitis was found to be 55.6% in the total reporting population of the units and was 69.7% in the most highly exposed workers (those reporting a frequency of hand-washing exceeding 35 times per shift). No relationship was found between occupational hand dermatitis and reported age, gender, race, atopic status, history of previous hand dermatitis, and duration of employment. Hand-washing frequency greater than 35 times per shift was strongly associated with occupational hand dermatitis (odds ratio = 4.13, P < 0.005). The high prevalence of occupational hand dermatitis found in this study of intensive care unit workers causes concern regarding the risk of health care workers in such units when exposed to blood-borne diseases.

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