Hand Sanitizer: The Pros and Cons
Hand sanitizer can be seen everywhere these days in offices, airports, malls, and most public bathrooms. The small portable bottles have become a must have for many to carry in their purses or cars. Since hand sanitizer made its commercial debut in the early 1990s, there has also been a constant debate on whether it is completely safe and healthy to use.
The pros of hand sanitizer:
- It kills germs. No one can dispute alcohol’s ability to kill germs and bacteria. Hand sanitizer has proved to be effective at reducing the number of sick days in work environments as well as preventing the spread of viruses at schools.
- Accessibility. When you don’t have access to soap and water, a small bottle of hand sanitizer can feel like a life saver for someone who is constantly on the go. It can conveniently be stored just about anywhere.
- It’s cost effective and long lasting. Most hand sanitizers are relatively inexpensive and have a shelf life of 2-3 years. Small bottles can last for weeks at a time with consistent use, while large bottles can last for months, making less of a need for frequent purchases.
The cons of hand sanitizer:
- Some brands are ineffective. While most popular brands do meet the 60 percent minimum alcohol concentration required to effectively kill viruses and bacteria, there are those available in stores that do not. As with any product, it’s very important to read the label to know what makes up the product.
- Can't be used on grime. Hand sanitizer may be effective against germs, but it’s no substitute for soap and water when needing to remove any bodily fluids, grease, dirt or blood from hands. These substances need to be completely removed. Using hand sanitizer on them will just move around the bacteria.
- Weakens immunity to germs. This is a hot topic when talking about the use of hand sanitizer. Some researchers say that frequent use of hand sanitizer will cause a resistance to both good and bad bacteria, which could hurt your immune system in fighting off infections. The Food and Drug Administration acknowledges this data and stresses that hand sanitizer is not a replacement for frequent hand washing.
Good hand hygiene is paramount to good health and is one of the simplest ways to reduce your risk of getting sick. Make sure to wash your hands frequently and if you do use hand sanitizer, make sure it meets the minimum alcohol concentration requirement to kill harmful bacteria.