Commonly Used Antiseptic Agents
Alcohol Iodophor Chlorhexidine Advantage Broad Spectrum; Superior reduction in bacterial counts; Rapid Onset Broad Spectrum Residual activity ~ 6 hrs Disadvantage Little residual activity; Water-based solutions can irritate skin Slow onset; Can irritate skin Narrow spectrum
In all, the following recommendations should be observed – use antiseptic solutions to clean hands (rather than plain soap and water) which are visibly soiled. Then use alcohol gels on hands which are not visibly soiled, as these gels have superior antiseptic properties and do not irritate the skin as much (assuming a non-water based gel is used). [CDC]
Antiseptic handwashing is necessary before and after gloved surgical procedures because the long term use of gloves promotes moisture and growth, which can be a problem following broken gloves. ICU procedures, on the other hand, are brief, and thus handwashing before and after gloving is likely unnecessary [Crit Care Med 23: 1211, 1995]
Surgical masks have never been proven effective at preventing transmission of infection [Clin Chest Med 18: 1, 1997]. For M.tuberculosis or other agents < 5 m in diameter (measles, varicella), the N95 respirator is recommended.