Daily baths with an ordinary antibacterial cleanser can reduce the risk of dangerous bloodstream infections in critically ill children, scientists claim.
A trial conducted among more than 4,000 children hospitalised in 10 pediatric intensive care units in five US hospitals, compared standard soap baths with antiseptic baths with diluted chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG), a commonly used cleanser that kills viruses, bacteria and fungi. Children bathed with the antiseptic solution had a 36 per cent lower risk of bloodstream infections, compared with those given soap-and-water baths.
The trial led by investigators at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center is the first of its kind in children and one of the largest infection- prevention trials to date.
Traditionally, bedside bathing has been viewed as nothing more than a comfort measure, the researchers said, but the study findings show that the simple, often overlooked procedure can also be a powerful infection- prevention tool.
“Daily bedside baths with an antiseptic solution may be an easy, quick and relatively cheap way to cut the risk of a potentially life – threatening infection in these vulnerable children,” said lead investigator Aaron Milstone.
Bloodstream infections, a common occurrence among critically ill patients, can lead to serious complications, including organ damage and even death.
Notably, the researchers said, daily antiseptic baths appeared to reduce bloodstream infections of any origin. In recent years, patient safety initiatives have focused on preventing one particular subtype of bloodstream infections, those caused by central venous catheters.
But because bloodstream infections often occur even in children without such devices, the protective effects of antiseptic bathing may go beyond catheter-related infections, the researchers said in a statement.
“Bloodstream infections, catheter-related or not, occur in many critically ill children and cause a lot of morbidity, so our efforts should be on reducing bacteremia of any and all origins,” said researcher Trish M Perl.
The study was published in The Lancet.