If you work with children – or the general public – it is highly likely you have an extra-large bottle of hand sanitizer close by at all times. Whether it be on your desk, in your purse, or in the bathroom, the use of hand sanitizer has certainly grown in popularity the past few years. With hundreds of different scents, picking up a few bottles is almost irresistible. While the purpose of hand sanitizer is to help keep us healthy by killing off germs, is it possible that hand sanitizers can actually be harming us?
We all know the appropriate times to wash our hands—after using the bathroom, before cooking, etc.—but is there an appropriate time to use hand sanitizer as opposed to whenever we feel the urge?
Some people pump out sanitizer after touching almost anything in public, but some doctors claim this habit could be harmful. On Dr. Mehmet Oz’s website, Dr. Oz, he explains “While [washing our hands] once every few hours may not have been enough to keep people healthy, cleaning our hands too often can actually make us too healthy.” People do say too much of a good thing can be bad, but is it really possible to be too healthy? Dr. Oz explains, “If we over wash our hands and continually strip them of all germs, we will be negatively impacting our immune system, which actually uses germs to build its own strength.” Our immune system strengthens when it is exposed to germs. Think about it: children who first enter school seem to always be sick. Their bodies are adjusting to the germs of all the other children. As the child grows, however, it is likely the amount of days they are sick during the tenth grade is a lot less than the days they missed during kindergarten. Dr. Oz states that if we weren’t “introduced to a germ then it’s very possible [our bodies] never learned how to defend itself from an invasion.”
For those of us who still feel compelled to sanitize after touching almost anything, let’s find out if washing our hands with soap is a healthier alternative to sanitizer.
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ABC News’s “Good Morning America” preformed an experiment to find out which method was best for killing germs and staying healthy. In the experiment, they used hand sanitizers, “one with alcohol as the active ingredient, versus another that was alcohol-free […and…] pitted regular bar soap against antibacterial soap, and regular liquid soap against antibacterial liquid soap.”
The researchers determined that, when comparing the effects of the products in regard to their abilities to wash off E. coli bacteria, the “alcohol-based hand sanitizer clearly works the best [and] you should use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60 percent alcohol.” So, in terms of keeping germs away, alcohol-based hand sanitizer is the best. That being said, the researchers stressed that there is a more important factor.
“The Food and Drug Administration recommends using only regular soap because of worries that germs will develop resistance, and people will develop laziness from high-tech soap,” ABC News concludes.
Verdict: Fact. Using too much hand sanitizer can reverse the effects. ABC News reminds us that “The key with hand sanitizers is to use at least a half a teaspoon or enough that it takes 15 to 20 seconds before it’s dry.” The best ways to keep germs away is to avoid touching your face, washing hands before eating, and, of course, washing hands after using the bathroom or assisting children in the bathroom. Speak with your doctor about the safest and most effective way for you to use hand sanitizer.
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What kind of hand sanitizer do you use and how many times a day do you use it?