The use of antiseptic treatment during cord care varies from unit to unit. Although it may reduce bacterial colonisation it may also delay cord separation. Where antiseptic treatment is used there is uncertainty as to the best agent. Hexachlorophane powder (0.3%) and 4% chlorhexidene detergent were each compared with dry cord care as a control on a two ward maternity unit in a six month open study. Of 133 infants treated with hexachlorophane 44 (33%) became heavily colonised with Staphylococcus aureus compared with 80 (47%) of 171 controls; a reduction of one third. Chlorhexidene reduced colonisation by more than half; 17 (16%) of 104 compared with 41 (42%) of 98 controls. Chlorhexidene was associated with cord attachment at 10 days in 29 (28%) infants compared with 31 of 515 (6%) infants when it was not used. Hexachlorophane was more acceptable to the nursing staff. The reduction in colonisation with the two compounds was largely due to the suppression of cross infection.
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