The Negative Effects of Foam/Alcohol Hand Sanitzer


I am an employee of a hospital, working 3-4 days a week, and also a clinical student, with 3 days/week at my clinical site. This amounts to 6-7 days spent at a hospital. At my work alone, I estimate that I use the foam hand sanitzer about 250-300 times per shift (I work in another department besides nursing). When a clinical, this could been 100-150 times per shift. I am very particular about foaming in/foaming out and washing my hands before and after procedures.

What I have found is that the top layer of skin on my palms is now pealing off and my hands are sore/red. I use lotions and also apply a thick layer of petroleum jelly to combat this. Besides the breaks in the barriers of my skin, I can't help but wonder what all of the alcohol/chemicals in the foam are doing to my skin and body. I am sure, like most things, hand sanitzer/hand foams are safe in moderation. But those of us in healthcare use them perhaps hundreds of times on a daily basis over many, many years. What does this extreme use do to our skin and our bodys? Are we absorbing toxic chemicals?


297 Posts

Specializes in NICU.

Contact Employee Health.

Unknown member

120 Posts

It sounds to me like you're using sanitizer way too much. I'm still a student... we were taught to only use 3-4x per shift. Hand washing for all other times. Maybe doing this will be less aggressive on your hands especially if it's just the alcohol based sanitizer that's really bothering them.


1 Article; 2,334 Posts

You're using way to much hand sanitizer, way too much.

250-300 times in an 8 hours shift is every 2 minutes or less, in a 12 hour shift it's every 3 minutes. Even the lower frequancy at clinicals is too much. Of course it's burning the skin off your hands.

You need to be washing your hands with a mild soap and water, alcohol gel should only be used occasionally, in between washings.


938 Posts

Yes, it's too much. Even hand washing can be too much. I have always washed my hands with soapy water (I'm a little ocd) and on top of using the foam, I have literally scrubbed some of the ridging off my fingerprints; and yes, I have issues every time I get fingerprints.

Don't have any advice on how to strike a balance--I'm still trying to figure that one out.


222 Posts

There is no way I can reduce my use of the foaming saniziter. I visit pt's room 100 times in a 4-5 hour shift. Foaming in and foaming out each time. I am timed on my performance and how many pts I serve. I cannot wash my hands in a sink each time. I deliver roughly 50 meal trays and then pick them up from patient's rooms afterwards. Sometimes I can deliver up to 70 meal trays a shift. As you can imagine I do not have time to locate a sink on each unit and wash my hands before and after each tray delivery.


48 Posts

Has 6 years experience.

If you are not actually touching the pt when you deliver the trays I don't see the need to sanitise before and after every room. If you do not touch anything just set the tray down which is presumably clean and then walk out what are you transferring to the next pt. Same with picking them up you are taking away the dirty tray and only touching the tray and the items to be removed and then going to another pt and removing things not leaving them. If you want to protect yourself during pick up wear gloves.

Obviously if there are infection control precautions for certain pts this would be different.


222 Posts

I'm wondering if this is the solution, however I remember that it is our facility's policy and Joint Comission's to foam in and out after each room no matter with any pt contact or not. Also, many times I am touching the overbed table or pt's possessions to help them get set up for their meal.

realnursealso/LPN, LPN

2 Articles; 783 Posts

Specializes in Peds Homecare. Has 34 years experience.

I hate hand sanitizer. It dries out my hands, make them crack open, and hurts. After using it too many times in a row, my hands actually feel dirty. Soap and water are the way I prefer to wash my hands. I've seen some people use it to excess way too many times.


297 Posts

Specializes in NICU.

The OP is correct: it's policy in many institutions to gel/foam "in" and "out" of every patient room.

Again, OP, contact Employee Health.

Has 5 years experience.

Try prioritizing to cut down on trips in and out while in clinical.

Sounds like your in dietary picking up trays. Maybe wear gloves between instead, and if you just touch trays then your not going to be spreading germs anyway. Also after about seven 'foams' then you should wash with soap and water anyway.

-Guess it is possible to wash too much ;)

Specializes in Orthopedic, LTC, STR, Med-Surg, Tele.

Holy smokes, that's a lot of hand sanitizer.