There are many times you should use hand sanitizer, such as before and after touching a surface other people have touched. It’s good to wipe down the handle of a shopping cart before you use it. It’s also wise to use sanitizer after you’ve pushed a cart around the store, after filling your vehicle with fuel, after handling money, and after touching elevator buttons or door handles. Always wash your hands (with either soap and water or hand sanitizer) after each time you cough and sneeze.
Since COVID-19 has started most people rarely leave their houses without their bottles of alcohol hand sanitizer —and it’s easy to see why: Virtually everything we touch on a daily basis is teeming with bacteria. And now the added risk of the Coronavirus! In fact, one study published in the journal Germs assessed 27 cell phones and found a median of 17,000 bacterial gene copies per phone. And while alcohol hand sanitizer may seem like an effective on-the-go solution for ridding yourself of germs, using it too frequently can do more harm than good. Actually, it’s because hand sanitizer is so effective at killing bacteria and viruses that it’s not ideal for everyday use.
If you’re using very high concentrations of alcohol, it can cause dryness and cracks in the skin. Not only does it not feel good when the alcohol hits the skin, but then the skin won’t heal as well. That’s why it’s especially important not to use alcohol-based sanitizers on injured skin or your face.
So what about hand sanitizers that count ethyl alcohol, as their active ingredient (which is most hand sanitizers)? While these are the most potent sanitizers on the market and are recommended by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol-based hand sanitizers have some serious downsides as well.
Repeated use of hand sanitizer, can cause chronic irritation, skin breakdown, and damage.
Additionally, alcohol’s ability to kill off beneficial bacteria on the skin’s surface as a potential source of harm. If you’re beating down a natural defense the body has, you could be causing some chronic risk over time.
Also, you can get the Norovirus very easily and it is a very contagious virus that causes vomiting and diarrhea. Anyone can get infected and sick with norovirus. You can get norovirus from having direct contact with an infected person. Consuming contaminated food or water.
That’s not the only problem with overusing, the topical application of ethyl alcohol can lower the skin barrier function and render the membrane more permeable to harmful chemicals like nitrosamines from cosmetics.
Though there are numerous downsides to using alcohol-based sanitizers, none of this is to say that you can’t use these products every once in a while. Yes, washing your hands with soap and water removes debris that hand sanitizer leaves behind (including allergens like peanut proteins) with the fewest side effects. Important to do before lighting a cigarette etc. But if you’re in a pinch and need to get rid of germs ASAP, then it’s OK to use an emergency bottle of alcohol hand sanitizer.
But be careful as the other problem with strong alcohol is that it is very flammable, so don’t light cigarettes or fires, etc. as if your hands catch fire its not a pleasant experience.
Sanitizer capable of killing the broadest range of pathogens contains 60 to 85 percent ethanol or 60 to 80 percent isopropanol or n-propanol.
Store hand sanitizer out of the reach of pets and children, and children should use it only with adult supervision.
Do not drink alcohol hand sanitizer. This is particularly important for young children, especially toddlers, who may be attracted by the pleasant smell or brightly colored bottles of hand sanitizer. Drinking even a small amount of hand sanitizer can cause alcohol poisoning in children. (However, there is no need to be concerned if your children eat with or lick their hands after using hand sanitizer.)
During this coronavirus pandemic, poison control centers have had an increase in calls about accidental ingestion of hand sanitizer, so it is important that adults monitor young children’s use.
Do not allow pets to swallow hand sanitizer. If you think your pet has eaten something potentially dangerous, call your veterinarian or a pet poison control center right away.
However, if you want to avoid the skin-damaging effects of alcohol-based sanitizers, you can always use a product that does not use alcohol as the active ingredient, like Bound-Oxygen’s 2% Hydrogen Peroxide Hand Sanitizer.
Be forewarned, though: While alcohol-free hand sanitizers are largely effective, they are slightly less potent than their alcohol-based counterparts. But much safer especially for children to take with to school etc.
But if you want to keep your skin healthy, and soft then this is definitely the better option. And also if you are a smoker or work in an environment that has flames or sparks – then it is probably better not to risk it.
What are the fire hazards relating to alcohol-based hand rub?
All alcohol-based products are potentially flammable and therefore they should be stored away from high temperatures and flames. The WHO suggests that all health-care organizations currently using alcohol-based hand rub should undertake local risk assessments.
Allow the hand rub to dry: Staff should be advised to let their hands dry and the vapors disperse after using alcohol hand rub, which minimizes these risks. The How to Handrub posters state clearly: “once dry, your hands are safe”
- The flash points of ethanol 80% (v/v) and isopropyl alcohol 75% (v/v) are 17.5°C and 19°C, respectively.
- Care should be taken when carrying personal containers/dispensers to avoid spillage onto clothing, bedding, or curtains, and in pockets, bags or vehicles.
- Containers/dispensers should be stored in a cool place, and care should be taken regarding the securing of tops / lids.
- The quantity of handrub kept in a ward or department should be as small as is reasonably practicable for day-to-day purposes.
- A designated ‘Highly Flammables’ store will be required for situations where it is necessary to store more than 50 L (e.g. central bulk storage).
- Containers and dispenser cartridges containing handrub should be stored in a cool place away from sources of ignition. This also applies to used containers that have not been rinsed with water.
Where should alcohol-based handrub dispensers be located?
Handrub dispensers should not be placed above or close to potential sources of ignition, such as light switches and electrical outlets, or next to oxygen or other medical gas outlets, due to the increased risk of vapors igniting.
N.B. Fighting a large (i.e. bulk storage) alcohol fire using water or aqueous (water) film-forming foam (AFFF) extinguishers may be ineffective and may spread the fire over a larger area rather than put it out.
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