Important Message from The Joint Chiropractic regarding COVID-19 (Novel Coronavirus) - Read More

How Effective Is Hand Sanitizer?

By Chris Brown

This has sparked a nationwide hypervigilance with hand sanitizer use. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, hand sanitizer sales rose 600 percent in the U.S. in 2020. This trend for greater hygiene is expected to remain elevated, as people have developed new permanent habits of cleanliness. But just how effective is hand sanitizer at stopping germs and viruses? Most hand sanitizers use an alcohol base, which is effective at high concentrations, but contains certain limitations. There are a few facts to know before diving fully into a hand sanitizer lifestyle.

Does Hand Sanitizer Work?

Yes, the average hand sanitizer is effective at protecting against most pathogens, however, the actual level of protection depends upon the sanitizer. One study from the University of Ottawa found that three popular brands only reduced germ count on hands by 46-60 percent. The level of protection has everything to do the alcohol's concentration as, according to a 2014 study in Clinical Microbiology Reviews, high concentration alcohol-based hand sanitizer may be more effective than antibacterial hand soap at killing certain pathogens. And these alcohol-based sanitizers are particularly good for daily use because they target pathogens' metabolism and protein structure in a way that doesn't allow bacteria to develop a resistance to it.

Limitations of Surface Germ Killers

There are limitations  that you should be aware of.

Doesn't prevent airborne spread - One major downside of hand sanitizer for preventing exposure is that it is ineffective if the pathogen skips surface transmission altogether. Many viruses, including the common cold and flu, transmit effectively through airborne particles. It is therefore important to be aware of potential situations for airborne exposure, if trying to protect yourself from illness.

Dirty or greasy hands limit its effectiveness - Dirt and grease can inhibit the ability of alcohol sanitizers to break down pathogens. Because of this, it is recommended hand sanitizer is applied after washing one's hands.

Requires a high concentration for optimal effectiveness - The pathogen-killing effectiveness of sanitizers improve alongside the sanitizers' alcohol concentrations (everywhere from 30 to 95 percent alcohol concentration). So be sure to check your bottle's concentration before relying upon it for coverage (the FDA recommends at least a 60 percent alcohol concentration for daily use).

It doesn't work against all germs - Certain parasites and noroviruses are not affected by alcohol and cannot be killed by standard hand sanitizer.

Using hand sanitizers consistently reduces pathogen exposure, which is important for those with weakened immune systems or high exposure occupations (like doctors). For the rest of us, hand sanitizers can safely be an added accessory to our daily outings for reducing pathogen exposure.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Winter Park, Fla.

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