The global outbreak of COVID-19 has caused widespread fear, with people taking pro-active measures to stay safe. Among them, is the diligent use of hand sanitisers, which, as per the World Health Organisation (WHO), is a fair way to keep the virus away and maintain personal hygiene. So much has been discussed about hand sanitisers already that around the world, shops are running out of bottles, causing people to panic.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests that people thoroughly wash their hands with soap and water before and after meals, while caring for a sick person, while touching surfaces that may be contaminated, after playing with pets, etc. But, if washing is not possible, they should ideally use hand sanitisers with at least 60 per cent alcohol content, so as to avoid the risk of getting sick and spreading the infection to others.
But before you step out to buy a bottle, you need to understand a few things. One of them being that while alcohol-based hand sanitisers can quickly reduce the number of microbes in the hand, it cannot eliminate all types of germs. The CDC, however, says that there are studies to suggest that sanitisers with an alcohol concentration between 60 and 95 per cent, are more effective at annihilating germs than those that have lower alcohol concentration. There also exist non-alcohol-based hand sanitisers, which will not serve your purpose.
Most hand sanitisers have expiration dates, more so when there is alcohol in them. You have to both store and use the product well because alcohol being volatile, tends to slowly evaporate with time. This means that the sanitiser will lose its ability to ward off infections and fight bacteria, viruses and other germs.
Dr Farah Ingale, Senior Consultant, Internal Medicine, at the Hiranandani Hospital in Vashi, says that people have to read the combination on the bottle of the sanitiser before purchasing it. “It should have anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties. It should always be alcohol based, with 60 to 70 per cent alcohol. While washing of hands with soap and water for 20 seconds at least is equally effective, it is not always possible. When you are touching something while you are travelling, you cannot always use soap and water; that is when you can use sanitiser. It can be used anytime and anywhere. The bottle has to stored properly, away from heat, and in a cool place,” she says.