Hand sanitizers are alcohol-based products which are used to "clean" hands. From kitchen counters to hospital hallways, these products seem to be everywhere in the form of gels, foams or sprays. When hand sanitizers are applied for the purpose of washing, they effectively kill germs quickly. Now-a-days, many brands of hand sanitizers are available in the market and all have different ingredients. The effectiveness of the hand sanitizer depends on the ingredients which are present in it. For the prevention of infectious diseases and illness, hand washing is absolutely necessary.
Everybody knows that prevention is better than cure. To evade any sort of biological and chemical contamination, one of the best ways is to adopt proper methods of hand washing. Hand washing is considered to be the most important way to prevent the spread of infections, but clean sources of water are not always available, as per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In such cases, the CDC suggests using of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, for example Purell to help prevent the transmission of disease. The surgeons, doctors and nurses have high frequency to come in contact with various infected patients and so proper hand washing techniques become more vital in hospitals.
Germs present on the hands are mostly responsible for the diseases. So, by using proper hand washing techniques, one can minimize the amount of disease transmission. Proper hand washing with soap and water removes the entry of all unwanted guests to body systems. In recent times, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are popular for hygiene.
Hand Sanitizer Ingredients:
Hand sanitizers are mostly composed of 70% isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). For alcohol based hand sanitizers, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends a concentration of 60% - 95% isopropanol or ethanol. As the little amount of water content improves penetration capability of the alcohol, 70% concentration of alcohol is far more effective than 100%. Other ingredients present in hand sanitizer are:
- Antimicrobial or Antiseptic Agents:
These are the most important and active ingredients of hand sanitizers. Antimicrobial or antiseptic agents both act as germ killers. Some examples of antiseptic agents are ethanol alcohol, isopropanol and benzalkonium chloride. Triclosan is an example of antimicrobial agent.
- Water and Thickening Agents:
Water maintains the viscosity of hand sanitizer and prevents it from being solid. Also, it is a solvent for water-soluble ingredients such as food dyes. Propylene glycol and hydroxymethylcellulose are thickening agents used to thicken hand sanitizers to form a gel-like consistency.
- Fragrance and Dyes:
Artificial fragrances and food dyes are present in many hand sanitizers which compliment each other. Most popular fruit-scented hand sanitizers contain fragrances that imitate fruit, such as peach, and are dyed to bear a resemblance to the fruit color.
- Moisturizers and Preservatives:
Moisturizers prevent active ingredients for example ethanol alcohol from drying out the skin. Glycerin, vitamin E and aloe are the examples of moisturizers commonly used in hand sanitizers. Preservatives such as benzophenone increase the shelf life of the product as it prevents the degradation of ingredients and slows down the bacterial growth.
Hand Sanitizer Effectiveness:
When it comes to killing germs, soap and water should be the first line of defense but hand sanitizing can also be effective if used properly. Hand sanitizers help to prevent the spread of diseases such as stomach and intestinal bugs as it contains alcohol which kills bacteria and viruses on the hands. Hand sanitizers will not be effective if hands are dirty, as in, visible dirt.
Professor James Scott, an associate professor in the Division of Occupational & Environmental Health at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health said about the effectiveness of hand sanitizer that it works exceedingly well. Hand sanitizers work by annihilating microbial cells, as per Professor Scott's research.
Some community-based epidemiologic studies exposed that hand sanitizers have been effective in reducing gastrointestinal illnesses in households, thereby decreasing illnesses in university dormitories and absentee rates in elementary schools.
The Centers for Disease Control suggests that hand sanitizers are suitable alternatives to hand washing in health care settings, where medical staffs rinse their hands many times a day. Alcohol based hand sanitizers give a relatively clean surface to work on and thereby minimize the transmission of germ.
In spite of the various studies that mention the effectiveness of hand sanitizer, it is suggested to use soap and water for rinsing of your hands, while limit the use of hand sanitizers to times when you do not have access to soap and water. Sanitizers clean the hands of germs but they do not clean the hands means they cannot remove grime, dust, feces, blood or other body fluids from your hands. Do not replace a sanitizer for soap and water. You can use hand sanitizer as an alternative.
Proper usage of hand sanitizers:
- To cover front and back of hands, use enough sanitizer. Completely wet them.
- Massage hands vigorously for 15-25 seconds. They should not be dry before 15 seconds.
The Centers for Disease Control recommends the use of alcohol-based, gel hand sanitizers with a concentration of 60 percent to 95 percent alcohol. A generous amount of this hand sanitizer was found to be the most effective in killing bacteria and germs.
Hand Washing : Is Hand Sanitizer Effective? video from Youtube:
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