Infectious Disease

High speed air hand dryers leave HCW hands more contaminated than paper towels

March 20, 2021

2 min read

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Moura does not report any relevant financial information. In the study you will find all relevant financial information from all other authors.

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Research suggests that health care workers spread fewer pathogens when they use paper towels to dry their hands rather than high-speed air hand dryers.

“Our group previously studied the effects of various hand drying methods on contamination of the washroom / toilet environment in a hospital.” Ines B. Moura, PhD, research fellow at the University of Leeds, said Healio. “At the time, it was observed that air dryers resulted in higher microbial dispersion in the washroom and in the person drying their hands.”

Hand dryer infographic

Source: Moura IB et al. Infect Control Hosp Epidemiol. 2021; doi: 10.1017 / ice.2021.43.

Healio previously reported that air hand dryers, especially automated ones in toilets, can pick up and spread bacteria such as staphylococcus and feces. According to a study presented during the 2020 ASM Microbe meeting, Weber State University students wiped the dryers in three places, above the vents, center below the vents, and the bottom of the dryer, and found that below the dryers were had the greatest contamination, although all three locations contained organisms.

“I think there is certainly a chance that your hands are clean if they may have been inoculated with micrograms while they dried.” Craig Oberg, PhD, The Brady Distinguished Professor of Microbiology at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah, said at the time.

Moura and colleagues wanted to find out if the use of hand dryers affected the potential for microbes left on people’s hands and clothing after drying to spread to different areas of the hospital when surfaces are touched along the way. Researchers used bacteriophages as an indicator of microbial contamination to investigate whether microorganisms remain on poorly washed hands or contaminate the user during hand drying, and whether they can be transferred beyond the bathroom to surfaces used by health care workers (HCWs) be touched. Participants – one woman and three men – dried their hands with paper towels containing three to five towels for 12 seconds, and the air dried their hands with air for an average of 10 seconds.

The study showed that both the jet air dryer and paper towel methods significantly (P <0.05) reduced bacteriophage contamination of the hands by 2 log10 copies / L and 3 log10 copies / L, respectively. However, the aprons they wore and which were used to simulate clothing were significantly more contaminated by bacteriophages after using the jet air dryer. The researchers said that all eight surfaces they examined after using a jet air dryer - including the elevator buttons - had bacteriophage contamination above the limit of detection, compared with only five of the surfaces tested after using paper towels. They found that the average surface contamination after using a jet air dryer was more than 10 times higher than after using a paper towel.

“Microbes left on hands or clothes after drying hands can spread to multiple surfaces in the hospital. This is more likely when hands are dried with air dryers than with paper towels, ”Moura said. “Our results suggest that the method of drying hands available in public toilets is important in reducing microbial spread, particularly in the healthcare sector.”

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