Currently in the days of corona pandemic, people are extremely concerned about hand hygiene and follow various practices to achieve it; use of Alcohol Based Hand Sanitizers (ABHS) is also one of them.
Alcohol based hand sanitizers have long been used to sanitize hands from various microorganisms. But still people are not aware of some important information regarding these hand sanitizers.
In the current article we will highlight some important aspects about ABHS which can help in assessing effect of hand sanitizers for different conditions
General Composition of Alcohol Based Hand Sanitizers
The main and primary component of ABHS is alcohol (which can be ethanol or isopropanol ) and some may even contain antimicrobial agents added into it. Besides alcohol many manufacturers may add some moisturizers and perfumes to improve acceptability of hand sanitizers for their consumers.
Many alcohol-based hand rubs containing antimicrobial agents must be evaluated against the target pathogens for which it is intended to be used.
Which is more effective against Influenza A virus: Hand washing with soap or Alcohol based hand sanitizers
Although rubbing hands with ABHS is very effective in reducing influenza A virus on human hands, but washing hands with soap water is still the most effective practice as it is effective against the virus present in infectious mucus adhered to the skin.
The effect of hand sanitizers on soiled hands
The effect of ABHS is reduced when applied on heavily soiled hands.
The use of soap and water for the cleaning of soiled hands is preferred, as it is a more effective practice in eliminating microbes.
Although alcohol based sanitizers work effectively on lightly soiled hands but for heavily soiled hands it should not be considered.
The alcohol based wipes often contain alcohol and / or antimicrobial compounds, but are not effective on heavily soiled hands or body surfaces.
How much alcohol percentage is needed for effective results
Alcohol is the prime ingredient used in all ABHS and its strength is very much determinant in its effectiveness.
According to CDC at least 60% alcohol is required in a hand sanitizer to help you avoid the germs spreading to others. The percentage of alcohol can be as high up to 95% for better germ protection
Effectiveness of Alcohol based hand sanitizers against various germs
Hand sanitizers containing atleast 60-95 % alcohol are usually effective against many germs, but still it is not that useful in protecting against some germs like Cryptosporidium, Clostridium difficile and non-enveloped virus like Norovirus. Hand washing with soap and water should be preferred for protection against these microorganisms.
Effectiveness of hand sanitizers in removing various chemicals from hands
Hand sanitizers can be used against many germs, but it is rather neutral or ineffective in removing chemical from our hands.
So it is very necessary to wash our hands with soap and water, in case our hands are dirty with chemicals
Safety concerns related to hand sanitizers
Hand sanitizers must be used with utmost care and should not be handled by small children’s except under parental supervision. Some of the key safety concerns related to hand sanitizers are:
Alcohol poisoning: Ingesting hand sanitizers can lead to serious negative health effects and even death due to the presence of denatured alcohol.
Fire hazards: Alcohol present in hand sanitizers is quite flammable and can catch fire when exposed to open flames or high temperatures. Hand sanitizers should be used carefully particularly while coking near an open flame, as there may be a chance of our body surface catching fire if the alcohol is not dried properly.
Skin irritation: Many people can experience skin irritation due to alcohol and other additives added in hand sanitizers
How to use Hand sanitizer effectively
According to the guidelines issued by CDC, hand sanitizers should be put on the palm of one hand and the other hand must be rubbed over it, keeping in mind that sanitizer effectively reaches all the surfaces of hand.
The sanitizers should be rubbed on the hand until it completely dries out. This process can take a time of at least 20 seconds.
- Thiagarajan M et al. (2020). Hand Sanitizers: A Review on Formulation Aspects, Adverse Effects, and Regulations. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7246736/
- Hirose R, Nakaya T, Naito Y, Daidoji T, Bandou R, Inoue K, Dohi O, Yoshida N, Konishi H, Itoh Y. 2019. Situations leading to reduced effectiveness of current hand hygiene against infectious mucus from influenza virus-infected patients. mSphere 4:e00474-19. https://doi.org/ 10.1128/mSphere.00474-19.
- Cynthia S et al. (2017). Reported Adverse Health Effects in Children from Ingestion of Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers — United States, 2011–2014.Reported Adverse Health Effects in Children from Ingestion of Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers — United States, 2011–2014 (nih.gov)
- Hand Sanitizer Use Out and About | Handwashing | CDC