Doctors already wash their hands regularly to prevent the spread of infections. Often, they wear gloves as well. But it may be even better if they wore gloves more often.
A recent study looked at the rates of infections among children which developed during hospital stays across different seasons.
During one season, the hospital doctors always wore gloves for every contact they had with patients. During the rest of the time, they were not required to wear gloves.
The rates of infections gotten during hospital stays were lower during the time periods when all doctors were required to wear gloves for all patient interactions.
The study, led by Jun Yin, MS, of the Departments of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, looked at whether gloves worn all year by doctors reduced infections in hospitals.
The researchers investigated the medical records of all the children admitted to the same hospital between 2002 and 2010.
At this hospital, doctors were required to wear gloves at any time while with patients during the season when RSV was most prevalent. RSV stands for respiratory syncytial virus and is a virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages.
During the rest of the year, mandatory gloving was not the standard policy in this hospital.
The researchers therefore compared the rates of hospital-acquired infections during the times when doctors were required to always wear gloves to the times when mandatory gloving was not in effect.
Hospital-acquired infections are any infections that a patient catches while at the hospital because of viruses, bacteria or fungi already at the hospital.
During the full time period of the study, 686 hospital-acquired infections occurred in the hospital among the patients studied.
The researchers found that the risk of developing a hospital-acquired infection was 25 percent lower during the time when doctors were required to wear gloves for all patient contacts.
This reduced risk during gloving requirement periods existed even after the researchers took into account long-term trends and seasonal trends related to hospital-acquired infections.
Specifically, bloodstream infections were 37 percent less likely, central line-associated bloodstream infections were 39 percent less likely, and hospital-acquired pneumonia was 80 percent less likely during mandatory gloving periods.
The researchers also looked at individual units in the hospital. They found that hospital-acquired infections were 37 percent lower in pediatric intensive care units when mandatory gloving was in effect.
Also, rates of hospital-acquired infections were 38 percent lower in neonatal intensive care units (NICU) and 48 percent lower in the Pediatrics Bone Marrow Transplant Unit during mandatory gloving regulations.
The study was published April 22 in the journal Pediatrics. The research did not receive external funding, and the authors declared no conflicts of interest.