Washing your hands with warm water and soap remains to be the best standard for hand hygiene and to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as the coronavirus disease. But hand sanitizers can also protect you against viruses, especially in some situations when hand washing is not convenient. Because of this, the outbreak of COVID-19 caused an increase in sales of hand sanitizers in many countries.
It has become the most sought-after product that almost everyone looks for in pharmacies and supermarkets. Although hand sanitizers were proven to help reduce the risk of people catching infections, you should know that not all hand sanitizers are effective against coronavirus. To understand this better, here are some things you should know about hand sanitizers and what you should use to protect yourself from viruses.
Two Types of Hand Sanitizers
The two main types of hand sanitizers are alcohol-based and alcohol-free sanitizers. Although both of these can reduce microbes, it was proven that alcohol-based hand sanitizers are more effective in killing most germs. These sanitizers help reduce the number of microbes on your hands but do not totally eliminate all types of germs.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that the higher the alcohol content of the hand sanitizer, the more effective it is at destroying viruses. It is better if it contains 60 to 95 percent of alcohol for it to be more effective at eliminating germs. By using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, you can make sure that you don’t just prevent germs from growing but kill them outright. This will help protect you from any illness.
Hand Sanitizers Might Not Remove Harmful Chemicals
Although proven effective in eliminating germs in your hands, there is still no guarantee that hand sanitizers can also remove many types of harmful chemicals. If you have touched such harmful chemicals, like pesticides and heavy metals, there’s a high probability for them to stick longer to your hands. In cases like this, washing your hands with soap and water is still the best way to remove them.
Aside from not removing harmful chemicals, hand sanitizers may also not be as effective when your hands are greasy. Your hands may become greasy or soiled when you handle food, work in the garden, or do other outdoor activities. In such circumstances, washing your hands with soap and water is still the most effective way to remove dirt and grease.
Proper Use of Hand Sanitizers
To see the full effects of a hand sanitizer, you have to make sure that you use it correctly. Using alcohol-based hand sanitizers are ideal for killing germs and are less irritating to the skin than frequent handwashing. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that you can use a superfluous amount of it. Excessive use of hand sanitizers could raise the risk of other viruses.
You should use just the right amount of it, about the size of a nickel, in your palm to kill germs effectively. Rub your hands together afterward, and wait until they are dry. Make sure that you don’t wipe your hands unless they are completely dry, and do not touch your nose, eyes, and mouth immediately after hand sanitizer use.
Why You Should Not Make Your Own Hand Sanitizer
The shortages of commercially available products among many countries are leading people to try and make their own hand sanitizers. As much as this can help you in preventing viruses, it is also important to know that this might not be as effective as the ones from authorized hand sanitizer manufacturers.
Making homemade hand sanitizers is harder than it seems and can be harmful to human skin. The key is getting the right concentration and the right ratio of ingredients. As the CDC recommends, a hand sanitizer should contain at least 60% of alcohol. Most alcohol-based hand sanitizers that you can buy in stores have it, and it can be tricky to replicate that on your own.
Proper hand sanitizer packaging is also an important factor to consider, so it is not ideal to make a DIY hand sanitizer at home. Because when a hand sanitizer bottle is not properly sealed or if its cap is loose, the alcohol content of the sanitizer will decrease as it evaporates. This will make the hand sanitizer less effective.
Hand Sanitizer Does Expire
Most commercial hand sanitizers have expiration dates especially alcohol-based. You have to both store and use these products properly for them to be effective for at least a couple of years. It is also important to keep in mind that alcohol is volatile and will slowly evaporate over time if not used. If this happens, the sanitizer will lose its ability to effectively kill germs and viruses
However, if you have no other choice, you can still use an expired hand sanitizer even if it’s effectiveness has already been decreased. After all, it is still better than not having and using anything to disinfect your hands. Although you might need to use a little more amount of it to be effective.
Swallowing Alcohol-based Hand Sanitizers Can Cause Poisoning
According to CDC, the alcohol content of alcohol-based hand sanitizers is effective and safe when used as directed. However, it can potentially cause poisoning when swallowed, especially if a person swallowed more than two mouthfuls of it. In most cases, this happened to children when there is no strict adult supervision.
This is why it is very important that hand sanitizers are stored out of the reach of young children. Parents should also make sure that they guide and supervise their children to make sure they don’t put their hands inside of their mouths immediately after using hand sanitizers.
Handwashing with soap and water remains to be the most effective way to fight viruses, especially when your hands are visibly dirty. But using hand sanitizers is also the best alternative when soap and water are not readily available. However, hand sanitizers are not always safe and effective, especially when not used properly. So it is important to remember the things mentioned above to avoid any possible negative effects of using hand sanitizers and to maximize its benefits.