Are Hand Sanitizers Safe and Effective?
Are Hand Sanitizers Safe and Effective?
Do Hand Sanitizers actually work?
Do they really kill the germs and provide that 99.9% protection as claimed by the manufacturers?
Are they really safe to be used frequently?
These were the obvious questions that haunted my mind when I saw two bottles of hand sanitizers on my colleague’s desk, one bottle to be kept in the office and the other to be carried in the bag.
Hand sanitizers have become an alternative to hand wash for many people. Children are mostly taught to use hand sanitizers before and after meal or at regular time intervals. Nurses and doctors also largely use hand sanitizers when observing many patients consecutively. It is a preferred method by many. It is a short cut method and as well, convenient. Convenience and shortcuts are foremost requirements in today’s time. But are all shortcuts good enough to be adopted without brooding over the consequences?
What are hand sanitizers?
Hand sanitizers are a kind of antiseptic or disinfectant that kills germs on the hands on the go. They are recommended when soap and water aren’t available for hand wash. But, it has gradually become an alternative to soap & water hand-wash when only germ-kill is the requirement. If dirt removal is required, then sanitizers aren’t of help.
What are the active ingredients?
The active ingredient in hand sanitizers may be ethanol, isopropanol, n-propanol, or povidone-iodine. Inactive ingredients in alcohol rubs mainly include a thickening agent such as polyacrylic acid for alcohol gels, humectants such as glycerin for liquid rubs, propylene glycol, and essential of plants.
What do Hand Sanitizers do?
Hand sanitizers remove the outer layer of oil on the skin preventing the bacteria from clinging on to the skin surface. Alcohol is said to inhibit the growth of bacteria. Hence it also prevents and kills bacteria on the skin surface. Some studies also state that stripping off the oil prevents the bacteria present in our body from coming to the surface of the skin. But these are bacteria are not the kind which can cause problems. These are supposedly the good microbes, which the body replenishes in not much time.
Do they really kill germs?
Alcohol based hand sanitizers are more effective at killing micro-organisms than soaps and do not dry out hands as much. And thus, Alcohol finds use in deodorants as well due to its anti-bacterial properties. Alcohol kills both pathogenic (disease causing) micro-organisms and the resident bacteria, which generally do not cause illness.
Alcohol-free hand sanitizers may be effective immediately while they are on the skin, but the solutions themselves may become contaminated in absence of alcohol, as alcohol is an in-solution preservative and without it, the alcohol-free solution itself is susceptible to contamination.
Alcohol rubs are more effective against viruses than most other form of hand washing, but they are highly flammable and can also be irritating on the skin with prolonged use.
Ethanol that is Ethyl Alcohol is the main ingredient in these hand sanitizers. When kids apply hand sanitizers on their hands, they also tend to lick it off when putting their hands quite frequently in their mouths. This causes this Ethanol to enter into the body, which is not good. Though this can happen with all those who use hand sanitizers, but then adults can be more careful. There other ingredients as well which may also turn out to be toxic if used more often.
The alcohol-based hand sanitizers are convenient and effective. But as per the researches they are not more effective than washing hand with soap. And, since they have high alcohol content, hand sanitizers should not be used around open flames.
If used occasionally, Hand Sanitizers aren’t harmful but with prolonged use, they may result in skin problems and may also turn out to be toxic, especially with children. So, one has to be careful with the frequency of usage.
The bottom line is – no other method is better than the age old soap & water hand washing.
Are Hand Sanitizers Safe and Effective? What is your take?
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