Jul 20, 2020

Is hand sanitizer better than soap and water at preventing the flu?

The coronavirus pandemic has made the population much more prudent about their overall hygiene. Because of which there has been a quick surge in demand for basic hygiene products. Hand sanitizers, Liquid Hand Wash, Soaps, Masks and other similar products have been quickly run out of stock in the local supermarkets.

Since then, people who otherwise were oblivious about their hygiene, are increasingly becoming more aware of the healthy practices. They are researching more and more about the best methods to keep themselves safe from the coronavirus flu which has taken a huge toll on the lives and economy of the world.

So to provide them more clarity in regards with the best method of keeping yourself healthy and safe, we have prepared a detailed guide about whether hand sanitizer is better than just soap and water at preventing the flu or not.

An alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a hygiene product which comes in either gel or liquid form, both of them are equally effective for fighting the germs. It provides a very easy and effective way of keeping ourselves safe and healthy. Experts recommend that a hand sanitizer should at least have 60% alcohol concentration to be effective enough to fight the germs. Anything less would prove to be ineffective.

A basic rule which we should consider while maintaining hand hygiene is to never use hand sanitizer when our hands are visibly dirty or full of grease as they won’t be effective in that setting. In that case, we should always use soap and water first and then afterwards use hand sanitizer.

Although soap and water may be more effective in removing certain kind of germs such as the norovirus, still if used correctly, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can inactivate many kinds of microbes almost completely, but the main hindrance is that people may not use a large enough volume of hand sanitizer or may wipe it before it dries up.

If your hands have touched some harmful chemicals like a pesticide, you should always first carefully wash it with soap and water. Also, there is a risk of alcohol poisoning while using hand sanitizers, so we should be careful not to consume it. But in case of a hand sanitizer, it can be used much more frequently as it can be carried anywhere and doesn’t require the use of water.

During a recent research in Japan, it has been proved that ethanol-based disinfectants are effective at completely destroying influenza A viruses quickly in all situations. Another research by Harvard states that frequent use of hand sanitizers in place of soap and water may lead to less respiratory problems, fewer sick days and less antibiotic use. Harvard used three groups of toddlers, in which one group use frequent hand sanitizers, the other one used soap and water. Parents and caretakers were instructed to use hand sanitizers and handwashing as frequently as possible, before and after meals, after sneezing, playing outside etc. in both the groups respectively. But both of the groups were asked to wash hands with soap and water when they were visibly dirty.

At the end of the tests, the group which used hand sanitizer performed significantly better than both the other groups. The hand sanitizer group had much less sick days and required fewer prescriptions for antibiotics.

Even though there is little high-quality evidence that hand sanitizers are effective in fighting the germs in the community at large, but if we use hand sanitizers along with frequent handwashing, it can lead to a reasonable measure to effectively reduce the risk of catching the flu.