The fear of contacting the new strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, has necessitated the use of disinfectants or antimicrobial solutions in everyday life. To prevent the transmission of COVID-19, one must ensure that their hands are free from germs. Apart from hand washing, are there other effective options for good hand hygiene? hand sanitizer effectiveness
Do you know not all hand sanitizers are made equal? Find out what are the hand sanitizer effectiveness by reading on. | Photo: iStock
The highly infectious nature of COVID-19 has triggered a wave of panic across the globe, prompting people to take all possible preventive measures against this new deadly virus. Among other preventive actions suggested by global health organisations, frequent hand washing with soap and water, and maintaining good hygiene has been recommended by all doctors. There is no doubt that washing hands with soap and water is the most effective remedy, but many times it is not a practical option, especially when a person is outside home. In such situations, what are the other options? Is hand sanitizer effectiveness enough to protect you from COVID-19? Or should you rely on alcohol or antiseptic wipes
instead? Let’s find out which alternative is the best bet among the three.
One of the most commonly used disinfectants, alcohols are known to have antimicrobial properties. Solutions containing alcohols such as ethanol, isopropanol or n-propanol are effective antimicrobial agents that are used as surgical spirits for disinfecting skin surfaces. The ability of alcohols to denature and coagulate proteins, makes them effective against a wide range of bacteria and virus. However, pure form of alcohol shows less efficacy as an antimicrobial because in the absence of water, proteins do not denature properly. This is why, an ideal alcohol solution, commonly known as rubbing alcohol, contains 60 to 95 per cent alcohol.
With its impressive germicidal activity, rubbing alcohol definitely looks like a reliable option for hand hygiene, but is it? There is no doubt that rubbing alcohol is a strong antimicrobial but it is not good for skin, especially for frequent hand cleansing. Alcohol strips off moisture from your skin and causes dryness, which can result in cracking of skin. Excessive dryness and broken skin will make you more susceptible to infections. Therefore, alcohol has its limitations unless ingredients such as humectants and emollients are added to the solution.
Hand Sanitizers are another alternative for maintaining good hand hygiene. There are two types of hand sanitizers in the market: Alcohol-based and non-alcohol-based. Although non-alcohol based hand sanitizers, containing Benzalkonium Chloride, are non-flammable and relatively easier on the hands, they have to be of a certain concentration to protect you against a deadly virus, such as coronavirus. As discussed above, alcohols are potent against a wide range of germs and that is what we need at the moment. Hand sanitizers with alcohol are, therefore, your best bet in times when you do not have access to soap and
Hand sanitizer effectiveness depends upon the concentration of alcohol in the preparation. A sanitizer with 60-95 per cent alcohol content is an effective alternative for hand hygiene. These solutions often contain humectants, such as glycerine and emollients, like aloe vera, that prevents skin dryness and moisturises it. As a result, a hand sanitizer with at least 60 per cent alcohol can give you the required protection. Just make sure that you use enough hand sanitizer to cover your hands and allow it to dry naturally after rubbing it over your hands for 20 seconds.
As far as antiseptic wipes are concerned, they are generally effective for cleaning environmental surfaces but not so much for hands. Antiseptic wipes contain several active ingredients that can kill germs such as Chlorhexidine, povidone-iodine and hydrogen peroxide. Some products also contain alcohol. Any antiseptic wipe containing less than 40 per cent alcohol will be ineffective in this situation.
If at all there is an emergency where you neither have access to water and soap, nor hand sanitizer, make sure that the antiseptic wipe you are using contains at least 40 per cent alcohol. Also, be careful while using antiseptic wipes as sometimes they can spread germs instead of eliminating them. Since antiseptic wipes are meant for cleaning environmental surfaces, their usage should be restricted to surfaces only. Using a wet wipe on more than one surface will only contaminate the surrounding instead of disinfecting it. Therefore, antiseptic wipes are not a reliable option when it comes to dealing with novel coronavirus.
The above analysis suggests that during health emergencies such as COVID-19, only hand sanitizers are a viable option for maintaining hand hygiene after soap and water. The novel coronavirus is a new strain of coronavirus, which is still a mystery for the scientific community. Though the efficacy of alcohol against COVID-19 is still a subject of research, the past experiences of hand sanitizer effectiveness in mitigating the spread of coronavirus has set the precedent for the CDC this time as well.