As hysteria grips the nation and hand sanitizers fly off the shelves at pharmacies across the island, we worry that people forget the limitations of this wonder item. While certain hand sanitizers are efficient at killing many germs, including those that spread the novel coronavirus, here are three things to keep in mind about hand sanitizers.
You're probably using it incorrectly
Poor technique hinders hand sanitizer's ability to kill any germs. Studies show that many people often don't use enough of the product on their hands. They also fail to cover each hand entirely and don't wait long enough to let the product dry on their hands. The result? Marginally less dirty hands on a person who now believes their hands are squeaky clean.
It's not a cure-all
COVID-19 is rightfully top of mind now, but there are other infection-causing bacteria to fear. Many hand sanitizers are relatively ineffective against pathogens like the norovirus and C. Diff. Bacteria, which both cause severe gastrointestinal infections. Gastroenteritis is a leading cause of death globally, especially in young children. While research is still ongoing, initial studies say children with the novel coronavirus may only experience mild symptoms. On the other hand, gastroenteritis, kills almost two million children yearly!
It doesn't replace soap and water
When it comes to getting your hands clean, nothing beats simply washing them with soap and water. Hand sanitizers can act as a substitute when you can't wash your hands, but not all of them are created equally. For instance, sanitizers must have at least 60% alcohol to be effective against COVID-19, while the average household soap works just fine against that virus and more. Spending at least 20 seconds at the sink lathering and scrubbing your hands not only gets rid of germs, it also cuts through visible grime and debris, something hand sanitizer just can't do.
As the corona panic spreads across the world, hand sanitizers are now a scarce, highly valued commodity. Hoarding the stuff may seem like a wise idea, you know, the more, the merrier. However, before you start buying it by the gallon, remember like most things soap and hand sanitizer have a shelf life. Most only last three years before they begin to lose their effectiveness. So, unless you're outfitting a battalion, save yourself space and money by picking up only what you will use.
Hand sanitizers are a great convenience. When used correctly, they get you germ-free in a pinch. So, it never hurts to keep a bottle handy. But remember their limits and don't get too reliant on them.