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When and How To Use Hand Sanitizer?
Before we dive into the use of hand sanitizer, it is important to note that according to the CDC washing hands with soap and water is the best way to kill microbes on hands and is preferred to the use of hand sanitizer. However, in situations where soap and water are not readily available, an alcohol-based sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol should be used.
Once you’ve determined that hand sanitizer is necessary, it is important to apply it correctly to reduce the number of microbes on hands. When using hand sanitizer, apply the product to the palm of one hand using label instructions on how much to use. Rub the product all over the surfaces of your hands until they are dry. Do not use a towel to dry them. Allow hands to air dry.
While hand sanitizers can be very effective at reducing the number of microbes on hands they do not eliminate all types of germs, such as a stomach bug called norovirus, some parasites and Clostridium difficile, which causes severe diarrhea. Additionally, hand sanitizers may not be as effective when hands are visibly dirty and they might not remove harmful chemicals.
Even though hand sanitizer can remove microbes, it is important to remember that soap and water is always preferred and hand sanitizer will not clean hands that are dirty or greasy. Do not use hand sanitizer after gardening, playing out doors or after fishing and camping. Soap and water should be used unless a handwashing station is not available.
Here are some helpful tips for knowing when to clean your hands and what method is best according to the CDC website:
Soap and Water Should be Used:
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the bathroom, changing diapers, or cleaning up a child who has used the bathroom
- After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal food or treats, animal cages or animal waste
- After touching garbage
- If your hands are visibly dirty or greasy
- Before and after visiting someone in a hospital or nursing home, unless the person is sick with Clostridium difficile (in this case, use soap and water).
- If soap and water are not available, use alcohol-based sanitizer that contains 60% alcohol, but wash with soap and water as soon as you can.
Proper Hand Cleaning Methods
Now that you know whether you need to use soap and water or hand sanitizer, let's cover proper hand cleaning methods to effectively deal with germs,according to the CDC Website.
Soap and Water
- Wet hands with warm or cold, clean running water and apply soap.
- Lather hands by rubbing them together with the soap.
- Scrub all surfaces of your hands, including palms, backs, fingers, between your fingers, and under your nails. Keep scrubbing for 20 seconds or as long as it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice.
- Apply enough product on hands to cover all surfaces.
- Rub hands together until they feel dry for about 20 seconds.
Do not rinse or wipe off hand sanitizer before it dries as it may decrease its effectiveness against germs. Always supervise young children when they use hand sanitizer to prevent swallowing alcohol.
Can I Use Hand Sanitizer on My Baby’s Hands?
The short answer to this question is “No”. The CDC has expressed concern that hand sanitizers can increase bacterial resistance to infection when overused as well as pose poisoning risks to babies who place everything they see in their mouths, including their hands and toys.
When babies are born, their immune system adapts to its surroundings. Part of developing immunity is being exposed to environmental pathogens as well as viruses and bacteria in their daily lives. When a baby is not exposed to any of these it can actually weaken their immune system.
Hand sanitizers contain alcohol and other chemicals that can be harmful to babies. We all know that babies put everything in their mouths, so it’s a risk to use hand sanitizer on their hands and items they play with. Frequent exposure to sanitize-covered toys and hands in their mouths can cause stomach problems and poisoning in extreme cases.
According to the CDC, there is also evidence that hand sanitizer overuse is linked to allergies. Protecting children from all pathogens and bacteria that can tax the immune system can sometimes result in the immune system treating all substances as dangerous.
Keep hand sanitizer use to a minimum, using it only when a child visits a sick relative; not when your child touches a dirty floor or a new surface. Hand sanitizer should never be used on child’s hands or toys.