Know about safe and unsafe use of hand sanitizers

Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds is recommended by WHO (World health organization) and CDC (Centers for disease control and prevention) to reduce all types of germs and bacteria on hands. However, in the absence of soap and water, hand sanitizer in the form of gel, foam, or liquid solutions is recommended as the best alternative. They help to reduce the spread of germs and bacteria and hence arrest the transmission of many communicable diseases.

During Covid-19, hand sanitizers and masks are playing a very important role and have become a part of our way of living. However, to make safe use of these personal protective items, we should have enough knowledge about them and their usage.

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Types of hand sanitizers -

Basically, there are two types of hand sanitizer; alcohol-based and alcohol-free. Let’s have a look at the differences between them:

Types of hand sanitizers


Alcohol-based hand sanitizers


Make safe use of hand sanitizers

Hand sanitizer for children - 

No doubt hand sanitizer is totally safe for children, but supervising them is very important. If you have kids below 4-5 years of age, try to clean their hands with wipes instead of sanitizer to reduce the risk of alcohol poisoning and side effects of chemicals on their skin. Young children are more prone to get skin and lung problems as methanol, triclosan, and other toxic chemicals can be absorbed through the skin and lungs. Also, keep the sanitizer at a safe place to avoid any hazard.  Educate your child on using the sanitizers to stay safe.

Hand sanitizer for children


Hand sanitizer for adults -

Nowadays, washing hand is replaced with hand sanitizer because of the convenience it offers. But using hand sanitizer frequently is not safe at all. As the texture of skin varies from person-to-person, side effects of chemical present in sanitizer can also vary and can create negative impact differently. Don’t depend on hand sanitizer all the time and wash your hands with water after every four use. Wash your hands before eating anything when you are in the office or any location where water is available. 

What if ingested mistakenly?

Ingesting even a small amount of hand sanitizer can cause many adverse effects including vomiting, headache, cough, blurred vision, blindness, abdominal pain, seizure, hypoglycemia, or metabolic acidosis. Additionally, rubbing your hand with sanitizer and eating anything immediately is not a good habit, as sanitizer takes few seconds to a minute to evaporate, so always wait for at least one minute after using sanitizer before eating anything.

What if used too much?

As we know that excess use of anything can be dangerous, the same applies to hand sanitizer. Frequent use of hand sanitizer may decrease the resistance to fight diseases by destroying good bacteria which can defend the body against bad and harmful bacteria.

Other frequent uses of hand sanitizers -

People often use hand sanitizer to clean other daily personal stuffs such as keys, watches, mobile screen, eyeglasses or sunglasses, desks, pens, or car mirror. Most of its use is through hand only. Increase in its frequent use, apart from the purpose it is made for, can lead to skin and pulmonary diseases. 

Some unsafe outcomes of using hand sanitizer frequently -

  • Frequent use of hand sanitizer can lead to skin related problems such as dryness, itching, cracked skin, in severe cases eczema, psoriasis, etc.
  • Hand sanitizer can increase the risk of asthma, sinus, and lung-related problems due to its strong smell. 
  • In some studies, it is reported that overuse of hand sanitizer can negatively affect the fertility rate, fetal growth, reproductive health, and body development.
  • Chemical ingredients of hand sanitizer can imbalance the hormones due to its antimicrobial properties.
  • Excessive use of hand sanitizers can also negatively affect an individual’s immune system.

Final thought - 

There are a variety of hand sanitizers available in the market. Choosing a safe hand sanitizer is very important, as FDA (Food drug and administration) has identified a few alcohol-based sanitizers which contain high level of methanol (also known as wood alcohol) and triclosan which can lead to certain health problems if ingested mistakenly. So, while buying hand sanitizer, make sure to read the label of its chemical compositions, warning, and precautions carefully. Stop using hand sanitizer and consult a doctor if you face any type of irritation, redness, or itching.

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