Side Effects of Hand Sanitizers

There has been an increasing amount of awareness among people about the importance of washing hands frequently and how diseases spread through unwashed hands. Germs which cause diseases like common cold, influenza and swine flu spread through physical contact. When we touch things like door knobs, car seats and door handles and stair bannisters, germs get deposited on the surface and then spread far and wide through repeated contact.

With an increasing number of sick days lost due to common illnesses, people are actively encouraged to wash hands frequently. Where water is not available, use of hand sanitizers is encouraged to clean hands and kill germs thereby preventing the spreading of germs and the resultant diseases.


Side Effects and Draw Backs of Hand Sanitizers

Ineffective: Hand sanitizers are alcohol based and the common understanding is that alcohol kills germs. Medical research has proven that the alcohol content in hand sanitizers has to be over 60 per cent for it to be effective in killing germs. Most hand sanitizers available in the market today have an alcohol concentration far below this, and as such, are ineffective in ridding hands of germs and your hands are still unsafe.

Dry Skin: Continuous use of hand sanitizers causes drying of the skin. Alcohol in the hand sanitizer dries on the surface of skin and may cause chapping of sensitive skin.

Alcohol Absorption Via Skin: The alcohol content in hand sanitizers may be absorbed into the body through skin and enter the blood stream. People who frequently use hand sanitizers like medicos and nurses face the possibility of alcohol absorption through use of hand sanitizers.


Ineffective Against Anthrax and Rabies: Hand sanitizers are thought to be effective in killing all sorts of germs. While sanitizers kill germs causing common cold and flu, they are ineffective in killing microbes causing anthrax and rabies.  Thus the hands are still vulnerable to risks even with the use of the hand sanitisers.

Accidental Ingestion Via Toddlers: There have been cases reported where toddlers have accidentally ingested hand sanitizers and have been hospitalized with very high levels of alcohol in their blood stream. A highly publicised case was one where a toddler was given hand sanitizer to rub on her hand prior to eating lunch, but licked it off and had to be hospitalized till the ill effects of alcohol wore off.

Requires Prolonged Application: Hand sanitizers need to be rubbed vigorously on the hand, particularly in the folds and creases of the palms to be effective. Medical research has shown that sanitizers need to stay in contact with skin for 30-45 seconds to kill germs present on the surface. Most users of hand sanitizers do not rub the fluid on hands for the requisite period and hence hand sanitizer has no way of showing its efficacy.

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