Choosing a hand sanitizer
Hand sanitizers can help limit the spread of disease-causing germs, including
the H1N1 (swine flu) virus, public health officials say. They don't, however,
stop the transmission of viruses completely because these illnesses are also
airborne. Experts encourage the use of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer anytime
you're away from soap and water and need to disinfect your hands, such as
in the car or at the office. Here are a few key points to remember when shopping
for hand sanitizer:
- Pick a product that contains at least 60 percent
alcohol. You might see the words "ethanol" or "isopropanol" on
the label -- both are types of alcohol. Hand sanitizers with less alcohol
will not work as well, studies show. Alcohol-free hand sanitizers often
use the chemical BAC or plant oils to kill germs. However, health officials
say there is less evidence that these products work as well.
- Fragrance- and dye-free
products may be better matches for sensitive skin, although health
officials say allergic reactions to hand sanitizers are few and far between.
is actually more drying and irritating to skin than an alcohol-based
hand sanitizer, studies show. Some users find alcohol-free hand sanitizers
even less drying, but public health officials say those don't kill the
wide range of germs that alcohol does. If your hands still feel dry after
using hand sanitizer, health experts suggest applying hand lotion.
- Homemade hand
sanitizers are not recommended. Most formulas contain too little alcohol
and usage may actually spread germs.
- Be sure to apply enough hand sanitizer. Studies show that at least 3 ml (a little more than half a teaspoon)
is needed for adults to achieve the full benefits of any sanitizer.
should be vigorously rubbed into hands until they are completely
dry. Experts say this generally takes approximately 20 to 30 seconds. If hands
are dry sooner, you may not have applied enough.
- Avoid sanitizers that contain Triclosan. Experts say that the antibacterial agent Triclosan, commonly found
in antibacterial soaps and cleansers, can potentially increase bacterial
resistance to antibiotics.