Alcohol Swabs

Product Description

This products is used for Safer Smoking and Safer Injecting.

The sterile alcohol swabs provided through OHRDP are individually wrapped in sterile and water-resistant packages and are intended for single-use only.

Best Practice

Best Practice:

Use sterile alcohol swabs for each injection to reduce transmission of HIV, hepatitis C (HCV) and other pathogens. Never re-use swabs.
  • Provide single-use, individually packaged, and sterile alcohol swabs in the quantities requested by clients with no limit on the number of swabs provided per client, per visit
  • Offer sterile alcohol swabs with each needle provided, or as many as the client feels they need, making sure to discuss with clients that swabs need to be used for intended purposes only (either cleaning injection site, or sterilizing finger and thumbs, pre and post injection)
  • Provide pre-packaged safer injection kits (needles, syringes, cookers, filters, sterile water for injection, alcohol swabs, tourniquets and ascorbic acid, if necessary) and also individual safer injection supplies concurrently
  • Dispose of used alcohol swabs and other injection equipment in accordance with local regulation for biomedical waste
  • Educate clients about proper use and timing of swabs, HIV- and HCV-related risks associated with sharing swabs, the risks of bacterial infection if the injection site is not cleaned with an alcohol swab prior to injection, and the correct single-person use of swabs
  • Educate clients about the correct disposal of used swabs, according to local regulations
  • Alcohol swabs can be used to clean the injection site, to wipe clean the surface used to prepare for injection and to clean injection or smoking equipment
  • Alcohol swabs should not be shared as they can easily be contaminated with microbial pathogens and viruses (HIV and HCV) and these can be transmitted between users if shared
  • The OHRDP recommends that Needle Syringe Programs estimate a minimum of two swabs per needle distributed. Since it is recommended to estimate approximately 1,000 needles per person, per year, a Needle Syringe Program should estimate a minimum of 2000 alcohol swabs per person per year
  • It is important to rotate inventory to ensure that the shelf life of the product does not expire prior to distribution to clients
  • Alcohol swabs should not be shared as they have been identified as vectors in the transmission of blood borne pathogens
  • Injecting without first cleaning the injection site can lead to bacteria on the skin entering the blood stream and causing infections such as endocarditis and sceptecemia
  • Once the injection site has been cleaned, it is important for the user not to touch the site and re-introduce unwanted bacteria
  • Alcohol swabs should not be used after injecting to clean the injection site or to attempt to stop bleeding. The alcohol in the swab may dissolve the blood clot and the wiping action can interfere with clot formation. Encourage a clean, dry tissue/paper towel with pressure until injection site seals itself

Sources & Resources

  1. Strike C, Hopkins S, Watson T, Gohil H, Young S, Buxton J et al. Best practice recommendations for harm reduction programs: needle and syringe distribution, other injecting equipment distribution, safer crack kit distribution (interim version). 2012
  2. Strike C, Leonard L, Millson M, Anstice S, Berkeley N, Medd E. Ontario Needle Exchange Programs: Best Practices Recommendations. Toronto: Ontario Needle Exchange Coordinating Committee 2006
  3. Getting off Right, A Safety Manual for Injection Drug Users, Harm Reduction Coalition