As we quickly slide into cold and flu season, you start to see hand sanitizer dispensers everywhere and they’re not necessarily all good or all bad.
In certain situations, I think the generous use of hand sanitizer is a good thing – if you work around young children or the elderly, or if you work anywhere in the medical profession.
As anyone who has ever used one of these products, they can seek and inflame even the tiniest previously-unknown paper cut. But a recent experience got me to wondering, if the tiny paper cut on my finger is burning from one application, what are the long-term effects of letting this gel soak into my skin (not to mention the direct effects of an open injury)?
They do serve a purpose when you are in a situation where you are unable to wash your hands with soap and water. If you are headed out to a carnival or an outdoor concert, it is probably not a bad idea to carry some along with you.
Ethyl alcohol, one of the primary ingredients, is indeed proven to kill germs (but only at a 60% content).
When used correctly, hand sanitizer can also prevent the return of such bacteria.
They can be used inefficiently, not covering all parts of the hands and fingers which is much less likely to happen if you are washing with soap and water.
Over time, the high alcohol content can significantly dry out the skin, rendering it more susceptible to invasion by the very bacteria you are trying to prevent.
And society’s overuse of antibacterial products such as hand sanitizer are actually producing antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria which means infections and illness will be harder to fight in the future.