Which is better, handwashing or hand sanitizer??

Everyone has their opinion, here’s one perspective…

The cold and flu season is fast approaching and it is very important to remember to wash your hands frequently!
Handwashing is like a “do-it-yourself” vaccine you and your family can take to reduce the spread of diarrheal and
respiratory illness. Handwashing, 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.

Alcohol-based sanitizers are very effective at killing many germs that make us sick, and they’re a great option
when soap and water aren’t available. However, hand sanitizers have their limits. They don’t eliminate all types of germs including some that can make people very sick, and it is recommended that you wash with soap and warm water after three applications of hand sanitizer to remove the buildup of residue left behind. So it’s important to understand what hand sanitizers can do and what they can’t.

Hand sanitizers kill all kinds of harmful bacteria and viruses including flu viruses. Just make sure you’re using a sanitizer that contains 60 percent alcohol or more, otherwise it’s not potent enough to kill those harmful germs. Another thing to keep in mind is that hand sanitizers are effective only if they’re used correctly. If you don’t use enough hand sanitizer, it won’t clean your hands as well. How much is enough? I suggest applying at least a dime-sized amount, enough so that when you rub your hands together it will cover all areas of your hands. Use a rubbing motion to evenly distribute the sanitizer product for about 15 seconds or until your hands feel dry. But even if you use hand sanitizers correctly, they won’t be effective in certain circumstances. Alcohol-based sanitizers are not effective on visibly dirty hands. If you can see dirt on your hands, use soap and warm water.

Hand sanitizers don’t kill all types of germs. For instance, hand sanitizer doesn’t kill norovirus, which causes
stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea and vomiting – sometimes for several days. Norovirus is highly contagious and spreads from person to person through contaminated food, water and objects that come in contact with the mouth. Soap and warm water are your best weapons against norovirus.

Therefore, Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be used in addition to handwashing, but should not be used as a
substitute for washing with soap and warm water. Despite the limitations of hand sanitizer, it’s still a great tool to protect yourself against germs. Just remember, washing with soap and warm water is best and when using hand sanitizer – use it properly and wash with soap and warm water after three applications.

Angela Brothers, RN MSHA

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