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- MayoClinic.com: Contact Dermatitis
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives
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Because of their convenience and portability, hand sanitizers can literally be a lifesaver. Whether you're camping or simply faced with a portable toilet at a public event, hand sanitizers can be the next best thing to hand washing. However, if you have ever had an allergic reaction to hand sanitizers, you may end up paying for the convenience with the high price of itchy skin or a red rash.
The term for an allergic reaction to a product or substance that has come into contact with your skin is contact dermatitis 1. Treatment of contact dermatitis, according to MayoClinic.com, involves applying anti-itch creams and wet compresses as well as using oral medications such as antihistamines to relieve the itching and reduce inflammation 1. Prevention of the situation is preferable, though, and can be done by avoiding contact with the offending agent and eliminating it from your immediate environment.
Washing with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on your hands, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2. Although they do not eliminate all types of germs, alcohol-based hand sanitizers that contain at least 60 percent alcohol should be used if soap and water are not available. Also, hand sanitizers are not effective enough when your hands are visibly dirty, so if you have ever had an allergic reaction, use the hand sanitizer only when it can actually be effective.
If you have a hand sanitizer allergy, use one with as few chemicals as possible. The Environmental Working Group advises as using hand sanitizers with ethanol/ethyl alcohol. Fragrance, however is an ingredient you can live without when it comes to hand sanitizers, so going one step further and choosing fragrance free can be a measure of protection against developing an allergic reaction.
Besides choosing fragrance-free sanitizer and choosing to wash hands with soap and water whenever possible, there are a few additional things you can do to prevent an allergic reaction. One is to rinse hands with bottled water after leaving the hand sanitizer on your hands for a few minutes. Another option is to bring wet wipes and hand sanitizer if you know you will be in a situation without running water and soap. After leaving the sanitizer on your hands a few minutes, wipe the residual off with a wet wipe. Your best bet overall, though, is to choose a hand sanitizer with as few chemicals as possible.
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