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May 23, 1994

Can Universal Precautions Spread Disease?

Author Affiliations

Sayville, NY

Arch Intern Med. 1994;154(10):1164. doi:10.1001/archinte.1994.00420100151023

In his very informative article about the century-old lessons from syphilis,1 Meyer tells us that "Calomel ointment supplanted the use of carbolic acid, which had been criticized for causing eczema and fissures of the hands, thus enhancing (with welldocumented prophylactic failures) instead of retarding the spread of infection." Meyer also says that "William Halsted (1852 to 1922) requested the Goodyear Rubber Co to make thin rubber gloves to protect his and his nurse's hands from harsh antiseptic solutions used in the operating room."

With the new emphasis on washing before and after every patient contact, the same problem may be reappearing. A busy doctor can see 30 patients a day. Will any skin tolerate 60 washings, especially in the winter, when hands tend to crack and bleed? My skin won't, even though I use a scrub that contains lanolin and aloe vera, and I doubt others' will, either, judging

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