All Woman

Are hand sanitizers useful?

Dr. Neil Persadsingh

Monday, September 10, 2012    

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ONE of the most beneficial of all products today is the hand sanitizer. In 2007, USA Today indicated that the hand sanitizer would be one of the products that would change our lives, and so it has.

Today, hand sanitizers are found in offices, hospitals, libraries, on the bus and the train, in purses, and glove compartments.

It should be noted that the hand sanitizer is an over the counter drug which is regulated by the FDA.

There are three types of hand sanitizers — alcohol-based, those with quaternary ammonium compounds, and those based on Triclosan.

Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are the biggest and most popular group of hand sanitizers. They are usually based on ethanol and they act by interfering with the outer membranes of the walls of germs, killing them. Therefore, they are bactericidal — they kill all types of bacteria and fungi.

Quaternary ammonium compounds are the next big group. They are not flammable like the alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and therefore can be used where open flames and the risk of fires are great. Again, they are effective against all types of bacteria and fungi. They stop the bacteria from multiplying — that is, they are bacteriostatic.

Triclosan is an antibacterial agent found in deodorant soaps, mouthwash and toothpaste. It can be used as a surgical scrub as well. Triclosan also acts by killing bacteria

The US Centres for Disease Control and the World Health Organisation both endorse the use of hand sanitizers to reduce the spread of disease and they both promote compliance with good hand hygiene practices. They can be used any place and can be used by kids and adults.

It should be noted that diseases are spread by hand to mouth contact, hand to nose contact, and hand to hand contact. Therefore, sanitizing the hands cuts down on the spread of diseases.

One problem with hand sanitizers is that they may cause hand eczema. Those with sensitive skin and those who use hand sanitizers excessively may get dryness and irritation of the hands. To treat this, a steroid cream should be used in addition to moisturisers night.

In today's world, having a bottle of hand sanitizer is a must.

Dr Persadsingh is a skin specialist. He is the author of Acne in Black Women, The Hair in Black Women and Eczema in Kids of Colour.

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