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How effective are hand sanitizers?

Posted by on August 9th, 2017

We’ve written about hand washing before, but it remains an ever-important issue. It can mean the difference between getting sick (whether it’s you or someone else) and not – and in some cases, even death. Diarrheal diseases and pneumonia kill 1.8 million children every year worldwide, but hand washing among young children can help prevent a number of those illnesses from taking hold in the first place.

It’s not just washing them thoroughly for 20 seconds either that’s important – hands must be dried as germs can easily transfer to and from wet hands. And contrary to what some believe, effective hand washing practices helps keep “super bugs” like MRSA from gaining traction rather than breeding them.

What about hand sanitizers?

According to the CDC, hand sanitizers are not as effective as soap and water. They don’t eliminate all germs or work as well when hands become heavily soiled from activities like eating, physical activity, or camping. People don’t always use them the way they should, either not using enough or wiping it off before it has dried.

However, they recommend that if soap and water is not available, one should use an alcohol-based sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.  And when using them, it’s important to rub the product all over the surface of your hands until your hands are dry.

It might be wise to think twice about relying solely on hand sanitizer the next time you dirty your hands!

Learn more about the evidence around hand sanitizers.


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