Grab it Wipe it – Squirt it Rub it. It’s the hand sanitizer boogie. OK, so maybe I won’t attempt to turn this to another Gangnam Style dance craze. Even though, I think it already is. Hand sanitizing is a popular practice and available at grocery cart channels, banks, schools and other public areas where your hand could potentially touch where somebody else’s hand – or hands – has already been. And you don’t have any idea where those hands have been before. Just the thought makes you grab the nearest available hand sanitizer, which very well could be in your pocket, jacket or purse.
The use of hand sanitizers is a practice of keeping pathogens, virus germs and bugs from doing their sneezing, wheezing and, sometimes, nauseating attacks on we humans and our children. Good or bad, we’re a germaphobic society. The awareness that germs cause illness, disease and even death has been one of the very beneficial discoveries in medicine. The question on the lips and minds of a few is – have we taken it too far?
The opinion here is – yes we have. However, I mostly say this since germaphobia may be unhealthy, both emotionally and physically, that has been shown by the creation of seriously deadly antibiotic resistant bacteria and the stress that some folks put themselves through over preventing germs – the continuous strain of disinfecting every inch of the surroundings. Awareness is great, paranoia into the extent of overdoing is not. In relation to hand sanitizers, there is both the good and the bad.
One of the arguments made against using hand sanitizers is that their use may inhibit the construction of adaptive immunity in children. Adaptive immunity is the function of the immune system which produces a defense against parasitic microorganisms that formerly have infected the body. To put it differently, it’s good your kids get sick. This protects them later in life.
Its debatable whether with a hand sanitizer has a strong negative effect on adaptive immunity. Research does show that the use of hand sanitizers does cut down on sick days taken by school children, but isn’t clear on if this cuts down on the amount of illness children develop throughout childhood.
Triclosan. Bad. The evidence isn’t fully in that triclosan is safe for use by humans. According to the FDA’s website “several scientific studies have come out since the last time FDA reviewed this fixing that merit further review. Animal studies have shown that triclosan alters hormone regulation. However, data showing effects in animals don’t always predict effects in humans. Other research in bacteria have raised the possibility that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.”
The fantastic thing is, triclosan is not even necessary in a hand sanitizer. The main ingredient in the most effective hand sanitizers is alcohol. The content has to be at least 60% ethanol (alcohol) for the merchandise to be 99% effective.
Alcohol. Good or bad?
Pure ethyl alcohol (ethanol) is, debatably, a better option than isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol). The issues that arise with both of these alcohols are questions of antibiotic resistance and a concern that the microbiome (beneficial microorganisms on the skin) may be affected. There is apparently no resistance developed by bacteria to alcohol – thus there are no alcohol resistant bacteria because there are antibiotic resistant germs.
The affect on the microbiome that alcohol has on the skin isn’t definitive. The concern is very similar to antibiotics and their disruptive affect on the intestinal flora of the gut. The jury remains out on this one.
Now, let us look at obsessive hand sanitizing. In one report there showed no break from the lipid barrier with health professionals using an alcohol based sanitizer once the sanitizer also included a moisturizer. Many sanitizers have aloe or glycerin that would count as moisturizers.
I would raise caution with continuous use of alcohol sanitizers and highly recommend, if over sanitizing is called for, using a hand cream occasionally throughout the day that contains similar lipids as those found in the skin’s barrier.
In conclusion I would have to say that you should avoid anything with triclosan in it. Wash your hands frequently – though this may cause irritation to the skin greater than an alcohol sanitizer if the soaps are too harsh, which most are. If you have to use an ethanol based alcohol sanitizer do so only when necessary. Stop being paranoid and a germaphobe, it may cause unnecessary stress.
The best advice would be to support your immune system and your resistance to pathogens through a healthy diet, supplements, adequate sleep, de-stressing and a couple of daily drops of an essential oil such as MQV diluted in massage oil and rubbed across the chest, back of the knees and toes.
In my next article I will provide some very effective alternatives to many hand sanitizers. Of course they’ll contain information About well known antibacterial essential oils.