Professional Comment

How To Prevent Infection Spreading with Safer Bed Bathing

By Elizabeth Jamieson, Senior Product Manager, Vernacare (

Daily assisted bed bathing is usually provided for critically ill or immobile patients to help improve personal hygiene and skin care, promote comfort, and most importantly prevent infection. Poor hygiene can cause a build-up of pathogens on the skin, which can increase infection risk.

One research study found that 51% of patients in ICU were infected, the vast majority with a healthcare-associated infection (HCAI). Moreover, it is thought that up to 39% of patients have at least one hospital-associated pathogen on their hands within 48 hours of hospital admission.

Critically ill patients are at greater risk for skin colonization and infection with multidrug-resistant organisms. Supporting those in hospital or community care settings with a lack of mobility, to cleanse regularly, is a fundamental aspect of nursing care.

There are several assisted bathing solutions available that help to provide a body wash for the elderly or those with limited mobility. Keep reading for our recommendations.


Reusable washcloths, which are often used across multiple patients, are well known for harbouring bacteria and should be replaced with a single-use disposable body wipe or cloth. This is particularly important for patients who are immunocompromised or critically ill, or those whose skin integrity is compromised, for example, patients with burns.


Tap water meets stringent safety standards, but it is not sterile; as such bacteria and other microbes may be present when the water leaves the tap. For typical household uses these microbes rarely pose a serious health risk, however, in healthcare settings, patients might be more vulnerable to infection.

In recent years, research has indicated that water systems can act as a source of P.aeruginosa transmission in healthcare settings, and as a result, many infection prevention specialists advise that tap water should be avoided when caring for critically ill patients.


The use of chlorhexidine wipes in hospitals, as well as other CHG based products, has increased over recent years, leading to concerns that repeated exposure of bacteria to chlorhexidine might result in resistance. Some suggest that if clinical use of chlorhexidine continues to increase, it is important to be alert to the possibility that this may lead to the emergence of new clones with reduced susceptibility. Indiscriminate chlorhexidine use in the absence of efficacy data should be discouraged.


The development of water-free systems are giving healthcare providers a range of no-rinse body wash wipes to choose from when cleaning patients or residents.

Rinse-free washing eliminates:

• Reusable components (such as reusable face washcloths)

• The use of water (which can be responsible for waterborne infectious dis- eases)

• The use of harsh disinfectants (similar to those used in CHG Bath wipes)

The soft single use washcloths available contain a unique combination of skin cleansers to help remove sweat, dirt, urine, and faeces from the skin. Use one single-use cloth per anatomical region to ensure effective cleansing and minimised risk of cross-contamination.

If performed correctly, it is widely accepted that the mechanical action of wiping will remove most harmful bacteria from the skin, with- out the requirement for a biocide within the formulation.