Chlorhexidine baths in PICUs reduce infections

January 29, 2013

Bathing children who are hospitalized in pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) with chlorhexidine solution once daily can reduce their risk of bloodstream infections, according to a study from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Bathing children who are hospitalized in pediatric intensive care units (PICUs) with chlorhexidine solution once daily can reduce their risk of bloodstream infections, according to a study from Johns Hopkins Children’s Center.

Researchers compared the effectiveness of standard soap baths versus bathing with diluted chlorhexidine gluconate, an antibacterial cleansing solution, on the incidence of bloodstream infections among 4,000 critically ill children in 10 PICUs located in 5 US hospitals.

In the random, crossover study, children who were bathed once a day with the antiseptic solution had a 36% lower risk of bloodstream infections compared with children who were given daily soap-and-water baths.

Bloodstream infections are a constant threat in the hospitalized population, and critically ill children are particularly vulnerable because many of them have either compromised immunity or indwelling catheters, both of which increase the risk of infections that can lead to organ damage and sometimes death.

The daily baths with chlorhexidine appeared to reduce bloodstream infections of viral, bacterial, or fungal origins. Most children experienced no adverse effects; 12 children had mild skin irritation.