Blog | Thursday, March 14, 2013

Did a hand sanitizer catch fire on a hospitalized child?

There is a very sad report about a fire at an Oregon hospital (OHSU's Doernbecher Children's Hospital) possibly linked to static electricity and alcohol-based hand rub.

It appears that an 11-year-old girl might have been inducing sparks with her hospital blankets when a fire started on her shirt, causing third degree burns. This is a very infrequent event, but fear of possible fires has led to draconian fire regulations that probably end up harming patients more than the very rare fire. For example, in a 2003 study by Boyce, none of 798 facilities, covering 1,430 hospital-years of observation, reported a dispenser-related fire. When it's an 11-year-old girl that's harmed, there's potential for overreaction. However, I hope this doesn't lead to more limitations in hand rub placement and more hospital-acquired infections and I hope she gets better very soon!

Eli N. Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, is an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist in Iowa City, Iowa, who studies methods to halt the spread of resistant bacteria in our hospitals (including novel ways to get everyone to wash their hands). This post originally appeared at the blog Controversies in Hospital Infection Prevention.