Introduction Abdominal examination by a physician with cold hands may produce patient discomfort. Traditionally, the examining hands are rubbed together to alleviate this discomfort. However, abdominal skin is only sensitive to changes in temperature greater than 0.8°C. Therefore, we investigated whether a traditionally-performed ‘hand rub’ results in a clinically-relevant change in hand temperature.
Method 39 female and 32 male test subjects were recruited at random on multiple days in summer. All were members of staff. Inclusion criteria were willingness to partake, possession of two hands and no injuries which may hinder full participation. Participant age ranged from 20 to 55.
An infrared thermometer was used to measure baseline subject hand temperature in degrees centigrade on the right hand at a distance of 2 cm. Subjects were instructed to rub their hands together vigorously for 2 and 10 s with repeat palm temperature recordings taken 2 s after each rub, simulating the time taken in clinical practice between hand rubbing and patient contact. This process was repeated 3 times with an interval time of 1 min.
Results Baseline palm temperature was 30.9 ± 1.4°C. After 2 s of hand rubbing palmar temperature rose to 31.1 ± 1.2°C (P = 0.11) and after 10 s of hand rubbing palmar temperature rose to 31.3 ± 1.3°C (P = 0.02).
Conclusion Vigorous hand rubbing prior to abdominal examination produces no clinically meaningful rise in hand temperature.
Disclosure of interest None Declared.
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Stevens J, Choo K. Temperature Sensitivity of the Body Surface Over the Life Span. Somatosensory and Motor Research. 1998;15(1):13-28
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