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Since 1995, the use of alcohol hand sanitizer has increased in the healthcare field as well as the general public. According to a 2003 article in "Infection Control Today," most alcohol hand sanitizers contain approximately 60 to 95 percent ethanol or isopropanol alcohol 2. Gels, rinses and foams are different types of alcohol hand sanitizer available 2. A variety of advantages exist for alcohol hand sanitizers over regular hand washing; yet, you should always was grossly soiled hands with water and antimicrobial soap, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s hand hygiene guidelines 2.
Use of an alcohol sanitizer is convenient 2. You can transport bottles in your pocket, purse, car or simply keep a small amount at a workstation or desk. Water and a sink are not always immediately available--including in a classroom setting or at a public sporting event. Avoid the trouble of finding a sink and washing hands or waiting in long lines in the restroom by simply carrying a small portion of sanitizer with you. The CDC recommends cleaning hands before and after eating, when preparing food or when hands are potentially contaminated with bodily fluids.
- Use of an alcohol sanitizer is convenient 2.
- Avoid the trouble of finding a sink and washing hands or waiting in long lines in the restroom by simply carrying a small portion of sanitizer with you.
The Disadvantages of Hand Sanitizers
Applying hand sanitizer takes less time than washing with antimicrobial soap. Using a hand sanitizer takes about 15 seconds, according to the website Dr. Green. Washing hands takes much longer--you must scrub your hands with water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds and then dry them.
Better at Killing Germs
Using an alcohol-based sanitizer is more effective in reducing the spread of rotavirus, adenovirus and rhinovirus compared with medicated and non-medicated hand soaps according to studies cited by the CDC. Sanitizers studied included those with 70 percent alcohol 2. Pathogens, such as gram-negative bacilli, were less likely to transfer from patients when healthcare workers used hand sanitizers instead of regular hand washing.
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- CDC: Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-Care Settings
- Dr. Green: Soap and Water or Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers?
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC Statement for Healthcare Personnel on Hand Hygiene during the Response to the International Emergence of COVID-19. Updated March 14, 2020.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chemical disinfectants. Updated September 18, 2016.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When and How to Wash Your Hands. Updated October 3, 2019.
- Vermeil T, Peters A, Kilpatrick C, Pires D, Allegranzi B, Pittet D. Hand hygiene in hospitals: anatomy of a revolution. J Hosp Infect. 2019;101(4):383-392. doi:10.1016/j.jhin.2018.09.003
- McEgan R, Danyluk MD. Evaluation of aqueous and alcohol-based quaternary ammonium sanitizers for inactivating Salmonella spp., Escherichia coli O157:H7, and Listeria monocytogenes on peanut and pistachio shells. Food Microbiol. 2015;47:93-98. doi:10.1016/j.fm.2014.11.010
- Inaida S, Shobugawa Y, Matsuno S, Saito R, Suzuki H. Delayed norovirus epidemic in the 2009-2010 season in Japan: potential relationship with intensive hand sanitizer use for pandemic influenza. Epidemiol Infect. 2016;144(12):2561-2567. doi:10.1017/S0950268816000984
- Stebbins S, Cummings DA, Stark JH, et al. Reduction in the incidence of influenza A but not influenza B associated with use of hand sanitizer and cough hygiene in schools: a randomized controlled trial. Pediatr Infect Dis J. 2011;30(11):921-926. doi:10.1097/INF.0b013e3182218656
- Azor-Martinez E, Yui-Hifume R, Muñoz-Vico FJ, et al. Effectiveness of a hand hygiene program at child care centers: A cluster randomized trial. Pediatrics. 2018;142(5):e20181245. doi:10.1542/peds.2018-1245
- Blaney DD, Daly ER, Kirkland KB, Tongren JE, Kelso PT, Talbot EA. Use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers as a risk factor for norovirus outbreaks in long-term care facilities in northern New England: December 2006 to March 2007. Am J Infect Control. 2011;39(4):296-301. doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2010.10.010
- Wilson AM, Reynolds KA, Jaykus LA, Escudero-Abarca B, Gerba CP. Comparison of estimated norovirus infection risk reductions for a single fomite contact scenario with residual and nonresidual hand sanitizers. Am J Infect Control. 2019;S0196-6553(19)30846-6. doi:10.1016/j.ajic.2019.09.010
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Handwashing: Clean hands save lives. Updated January 14, 2020.
Julie Hampton has worked as a professional freelance writer since 1999 for various newspapers and websites including "The Florida Sun" and "Pensacola News Journal." She served in the U.S. Army as a combat medic and nurse for over six years and recently worked as the Community Relations Director for a health center. Hampton studied journalism and communications at the University of West Florida.