Instant hand sanitizers have been heralded as wonderfully convenient, antiseptic products, but in fact there are several hand sanitizer dangers that users should be aware of to avoid potential risks
Hand Sanitizer Safety
Used according to the manufacturer’s instructions, instant hand sanitizers safely and effectively destroy the majority of bacteria and viruses that can cause illnesses. It is critical to remember, however, that instant sanitizers are potently toxic chemicals (which is necessary to kill the germs), and if used improperly, they can be dangerous.
Types of Hand Sanitizer Dangers
Hand sanitizer users need to be aware of several potential dangers when using the product. By understanding these dangers and how to avoid them, accidents and injuries can easily be avoided.
The most familiar danger is hand sanitizer poisoning, particularly for young children who are attracted to the fun scents and bright colors of many sanitizers. Most sanitizers contain 60 percent to 90 percent alcohol (commonly ethyl or isopropyl alcohol) -- a stronger concentration than most hard liquors. Even a small dose can be dangerous if ingested, leading to dizziness, slurred speech, headaches, and even brain damage or fatalities in extreme cases.
To avoid poisoning dangers:
Avoid using instant sanitizers whenever possible; opt for regular hand washing instead. Use only a dime-sized amount of sanitizer; too much liquid may not evaporate quickly and could be licked off fingers or palms.
Supervise children while using sanitizers to ensure they rub their hands until completely dry.
Use a foaming formula that will dry more quickly.
Keep sanitizer bottles out of reach of children just as you would any cleaning chemical.
Encourage teachers to use baby wipes instead of instant sanitizers.
Discourage fingernail biting and other habits that bring hands into contact with the mouth or lips. Keep the poison control phone number available in case of accidental ingestion
Improper use of hand sanitizers is dangerous for several reasons. Used poorly, sanitizers can aggravate existing cuts or scrapes and cause burning, itching, or rashes. Ineffective use can also leave hands still dirty even after using the sanitizer.
To avoid the effects of improper use:
Avoid using sanitizers on open wounds including paper cuts or hangnails.
Use the proper amount of sanitizer (generally a dime-sized spot, though more may be necessary for larger hands) and rub it thoroughly over the entire surface of the hands, including fingertips and the base of the wrist.
If hands are visibly dirty or there is dirt under the fingernails, instant sanitizers will not be effective and regular hand washing with soap is required.
The very convenience of hand sanitizing gels can be dangerous. As people become accustomed to using instant products, they tend to avoid bothering with the more cumbersome process of washing hands with soap and water. If this habit persists, individuals may consistently have unclean hands and could potentially spread germs or contract illnesses through contact with bacteria or viruses.
To avoid hand sanitizer dangers from bad habits:
Only use instant sanitizers when it is not possible to wash hands conventionally.
Buy only small bottles of sanitizers to limit use.
Use instant products only on the hands and not on other parts of the body.
One of the least common yet still potentially dangerous properties of instant sanitizers is that they are highly flammable due to their high alcoholic content. A small amount of sanitizer can, if ignited, burn very hot very quickly, leading to personal injury or property damage.
To avoid the fire hazards of sanitizers:
Do not store sanitizers in a hot car.
Keep sanitizer bottles away from heat sources such as incandescent light bulbs, heaters, or bright, direct sunlight.
If using instant sanitizers while cooking or grilling, be sure hands are completely dry before approaching the heat source.
Alternative Ways to Keep Hands Clean
The best way to avoid all hand sanitizer dangers is to simply avoid using these alcoholic-based products for personal cleanliness needs.
Soap and water remains the best way to clean hands to eliminate dirt, germs, and other harmful substances.
Use warm water; for children, test the water temperature to be sure it is not too hot.
Use soap and work it into a thick lather. Both regular and anti-bacterial soaps are equally effective.
Rub hands with lather for 15 to 20 seconds covering every surface, including fingertips, beneath the nails, and the base of the wrists.
Rinse hands thoroughly.
Dry hands with a towel; use that towel to turn off the faucet to avoid coming into contact with more germs.
Avoiding contact with surfaces that may be contaminated with germs is another great way to stay clean and healthy without the risk of hand sanitizer dangers. Use a tissue, handkerchief, or sleeve to open handles and or door knobs, and clean potentially contaminated surfaces with disposable antibacterial wipes. When coughing or sneezing, use a tissue, handkerchief, or the crook of your arm rather than coughing directly into your hands. Be sure to wash hands frequently throughout the day as an added precaution.
Individuals who want the convenience of instant sanitizers without the inherent risks of products with a high alcoholic content can opt for non-alcoholic formulas. Claims of their effectiveness vary widely, and even though they may not be as reliable as the alcohol-based gels, using any instant product is preferable to not washing your hands at all.
Despite their effectiveness and convenience, there are many hand sanitizer dangers users should be aware of to protect themselves from potential risks. The key, however, is to remember that when used properly, these products are safe and can be very effective at eliminating germs and bacteria.