Alcohol-based hand sanitisers are a great way to disinfect your hands. Doing so regularly and correctly will help prevent the transmission of bacteria and viruses through human touch. However, most people are not using hand sanitisers in a way that maximises its effectiveness! Here are four incorrect hand sanitiser habits that you need to stop doing immediately.
At any given point in time, the surfaces of your hands are brimming with natural oils, which attract disease-causing viruses and bacteria. Because they are made of oil, washing your hands with water alone will not get rid of them completely. However, when you wash your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds, the soap molecules are able to dislodge the oils on your skin, breaking up dirt and germs and flushing them down the drain.
Meanwhile, alcohol-based sanitisers work by killing cells. For viruses, the alcohol has to penetrate the outer coat and disrupt its proteins, rendering it inactive. However, they do not remove dirt or grease.
With lumps of dirt and grease in the way, the alcohol may not be able to reach and disrupt enough germs to disinfect your hand. Aside from that, your hands will still look and feel dirty!
Like soap, hand sanitisers are effective only if they cover the entire surface of your hands. And because alcohol needs to penetrate the outer shell or membrane of germs, they need more time to be effective.
To properly use hand sanitisers, take a generous portion of the gel and make sure it reaches the entire surface of your hands. Make sure to let the sanitiser dry out as you scrub the surfaces of your hands. Do not wipe them off.
Not all hand sanitisers are created equal. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sanitisers with an alcohol concentration between 60 to 95% are most effective at disinfection. As alcohol concentration increases, the sanitization and disinfection efficacy rate can reduce due to higher concentrates of alcohol leads to evaporation, rather than allowing the alcohol to rest on the hands for a sufficient amount of time. Alcohol solutions above 90% are not as effective due to the increased rate of evaporation.
Other types of sanitisers, such as those that are not alcohol-based (Alcohol-Free) or have lower alcohol concentrations, are less effective in neutralising certain pathogens—and may only reduce growth instead of killing them directly.
Hand sanitisers have risen in popularity because they are very customisable. Many companies who market specifically to children often make them brightly coloured and scented.
Unfortunately, this style of marketing is believed to have resulted in alcohol poisoning due to swallowing. In fact, US Poison control centres received nearly 85,000 calls regarding children accidentally ingesting hand sanitisers containing ethanol from 2011 to 2015.
To prevent this, hand sanitisers should be administered under parental guidance and stored out of children’s reach.
Alcohol-based sanitisers are a great way to keep your hands disinfected in a pinch. However, you need to make sure that you are using them properly! By recognising improper usage, you are putting you and your family at a better position to keep yourselves safe from disease-causing germs.
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