Washing hands with soap and water is the best method for controlling germs. Regular hand-washing, particularly before and after certain activities, is one of the best ways to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. It’s quick, it’s simple, and it can keep us all from healthier according to the CDC.
However, access to water and soap aren’t always as convenient.
So, what does one do when there’s no soap or water?
The first step is understanding the different types of hand sanitizer . Then it’s realizing that some hand sanitizers may actually lower your resistance to diseases by killing good bacteria, which helps protect against the bad bacteria.
Three Types of Sanitizers: Know the Difference.
There are three categories of hand sanitizers in the current marketplace: alcohols, Quaternary ammonium compounds and triclosan.
The most common alcohol-based products contain ethanol, which are effective against gram positive, gram negative, and fungal organisms. It should be recognized that ethanol does not kill bacterial spores and some developed viruses. Ethanol purpose is to take away proteins in infectious organisms and no resistance to this type of hand sanitizer has been identified.
The second type of hand sanitizer is based on Quaternary ammonium compounds, such as benzaklonium chloride or benzethonium chloride. While the ethanol-based hand sanitizers are flammable, the Quaternary ammonium compounds are not. Quaternary ammonium compounds fungistatic, bacteriostatic against gram-positive bacteria, and bacteriostatic against some gram negative bacteria. Like ethanol, the Quaternary ammonium compounds are not active against non-enveloped viruses.
Some species of Staphylococcus aureus carry a gene that allows resistance to Quaternary ammonium compounds. These organisms are also more likely to be antibiotic resistant, as well. Quaternary ammonium compound hand sanitizers may not be the best choice due to methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) is a concern. Quaternary ammonium compounds adsorb to the cytoplasmic membrane of microbes causing leakage of cytoplasmic contents.
The third type of hand sanitizers contains triclosan. Triclosan is a commonly used antibacterial in a wide variety of products including deodorant soaps, toothpastes and mouth washes. Triclosan kills organisms by damaging the cell membrane, but has weak activity against gram-negative bacteria, such as Pseudomonas. However, the The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says triclosan could also carry unnecessary risks. Triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics. Overexposure to antibiotics or improper antibiotic use can lead to bacterial resistance, making it more difficult or even impossible to treat.
Enter Toxic Chemicals:
If your hand sanitizer is scented, then it’s likely loaded with toxic chemicals. Companies aren’t required to disclose the ingredients that make up their secret scents, and therefore generally are made from dozens of chemicals.
- Synthetic fragrances contain phthalates, which are endocrine disrupters that mimic hormones and could alter genital development.
- You should also look out for parabens, which are in many skin care products. They are used to preserve other ingredients and extend a product’s shelf life.
When Is Hand Sanitizer the Preferred Choice?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol-based hand sanitizers are recommended as an acceptable alternative to soap and water in hospital and clinic-like settings because healthcare professionals often perform duties in sterile settings and are required to clean their hands constantly throughout day.
With all the many choices available, the ethanol based hand sanitizers are the most practical for the dermatologist to use on a daily basis. Due to the facts that the chance of organism resistance to ethanol based hand sanitizers is the lowest and they are very cost effective. However, the main problem is their tremendous drying effect on the skin resulting in hand dermatitis. This is a secondary problem that must treat in themselves and patients!
Your Best Choice.
To properly sanitize the hands, soap and water for 20 seconds (“Happy Birthday” repeated twice) should be the first method. A hand sanitizer can not and should not take the place of proper cleansing procedures with soap and water.
But when there’s no soap or water? Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
So, when you go to reach for your next drop of hand sanitizer, just consider that you may be doing more damage than good.