Hand Sanitizers are convenient, but not recommended by doctors.

Khevna.P.Shah, INN/Bangalore

@Shahkhevna1, @Infodeaofficial

In the longest-running sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, Dr.Sheldon Cooper is a Caltech theoretical physicist who has an obsessive need of using ‘Purel’ every time he comes in contact with germs. And who might have expected that we would become Sheldon Cooper one day, obsessively rubbing our hands off alcohol-based sanitizer and clearing its stock at the market. Sure people used hand sanitizer’s long back, but the pandemic has increased the usage of it, making people stock it up for months.

How Effective Are Hand Sanitizers? | Keck Medicine of USC

Hand sanitizer has become an integral part of precautionary measures against COVID-19. People are also making them at home, but they are not as effective as the store-bought alcohol-based sanitizers are. According to the CDC(Center for disease control and prevention), an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that meets the alcohol volume requirement can quickly reduce the number of microbes on your hands. It can also help destroy a wide range of disease-causing agents or pathogens, including the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2. However, hand sanitizers have limitations and don’t eliminate all types of germs. According to CDC, hand sanitizers won’t get rid of potentially harmful chemicals. It is found to not be effective in killing the germs such as norovirus, Cryptosporidium(which causes cryptosporidiosis), and Clostridium difficile(C.diff), and traditional hand washing are recommended.

Which is better: Hand sanitizer or Hand wash?

While both serve the same purpose that is clean hands but using water and soap should be prioritized. “Hand sanitizer may kill viruses and certain bacteria, but it does not ‘clean’ your hands like soap and water do,” Melisiotis, a physician with Penn Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, says. “Sanitizer doesn’t remove actual dirt and debris. Soap kills germs, binds them, and helps physically remove them, with the water, of your skin, and down the drain.” Furthermore, he tells Allure, “Some hand sanitizers can leave a residue that feels slick or uncomfortable for some users,” And hand sanitizers can also be more expensive than hand soap and it doesn’t even serve the purpose efficiently. Also, sanitizers are proved to be incompetent when hands are visibly greasy or dirty. Preferable use soap and water to remove germs and to keep your hands clean.

What happens with excessive usage of hand sanitizers?

According to few doctors, excessive usage of hand sanitizers does have certain side effects.

  1. Causes skin irritation

According to Vanessa Thomas, a cosmic chemist, and the founder of Freelance Formulation, “The primary disinfecting ingredient in hand sanitizer formulas is ethyl or isopropyl alcohol, and they are formulated along with thickeners softeners and sometimes fragrances to curtail the strong smell of alcohol. Frequent use of it can cause skin irritation, or dry out the skin. If you have sensitive skin, the effects can be worse. The drying out is caused by alcohol.”

  1. Causes skin disorder

“The overuse of alcohol-based hand sanitizers to safeguard against the germs and infection-causing pathogens could inversely increase the risk of infection via skin disorders. Overdoing may remove benign bacteria on the skin that is not good,” says Dr.Chris Norris, chartered physiotherapist and neurologist and Clinical Associate Professor at The University of California. He further adds that “Unlike hand sanitizer, soap and water can effectively remove dirt, grime and eliminate pesticides and other chemical residues that are lingering on your hands,”

3.Can increase the risk of Eczema

Eczema or hand dermatitis is caused by the increased contact with irritants and allergens. Caroline Nelson, M.D. a Yale Medicine dermatologist and instructor at Yale School of Medicine, tells Eat This, Not That! Health that, “Eczema commonly manifests on the skin with redness, dryness, cracks, and even blisters that cause itch or pain,”.

The doctors approve the use of hand sanitizers when in dire need, but they recommend the traditional way of washing hands, using soap and water. But precautions should also be taken while using the latter, such as using non-contaminated water and a clean soap, continuously moisturizing your hands, as continuous washing might cause irritation and roughness of palms. Everything is safe when it is used in limits, and exceeding those limits might just be an act of foolishness.

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