The world has experienced a lot of pandemics and epidemics over the years, ranging from the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918 to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. One of the simplest and most effective ways of preventing the spread of these diseases is by practicing good hand hygiene.
Hand disinfectants are one of the most important tools in achieving this. In this blog post, we will discuss hand disinfectants and why they are the first line of defense against diseases.
What are Hand Disinfectants?
Hand disinfectants are agents that are used to kill or eliminate germs on the hands. They come in various forms, such as gels, foams, and liquids, and contain different active ingredients that are effective against different types of microorganisms.
Alcohol-based hand disinfectants are the most commonly used, and they are effective against a broad range of microorganisms, including bacteria and viruses. The use of hand disinfectants can reduce the risk of infection transmission, particularly in high-risk environments like hospitals and other healthcare settings. With proper use, hand disinfectants can help to break the chain of infection and protect individuals and communities from the spread of diseases.
Why are Hand Disinfectants Important?
Hand disinfectants are essential in preventing the spread of diseases because they kill or eliminate germs that can cause infections. When people touch surfaces that are contaminated with germs, these germs can be transferred to their hands. If they then touch their mouth, nose, or eyes, the germs can enter their body and cause an infection. Hand disinfectants kill these germs and reduce the risk of infection.
Hand Disinfectants and COVID-19
Hand disinfectants have become even more critical in recent times with the COVID-19 pandemic. COVID-19 is a highly infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The virus spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person talks, coughs, or sneezes. The virus can also be spread by touching surfaces contaminated with the virus and then touching the face, especially the mouth, nose, and eyes.
To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends regular hand washing with soap and water or using hand disinfectants. Hand disinfectants are particularly useful in situations where soap and water are not readily available.
Types of Hand Disinfectants
There are two main types of hand disinfectants: alcohol-based and non-alcohol-based.
Alcohol-based Hand Disinfectants
Alcohol-based hand disinfectants contain at least 60% alcohol, usually in the form of ethanol or isopropanol. Alcohol is effective against a wide range of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. When applied to the hands, the alcohol evaporates quickly, leaving the hands dry and germ-free.
Alcohol-based hand disinfectants are effective against a wide range of microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses, and fungi. They are also fast-acting and can kill germs within seconds. Alcohol-based hand disinfectants are recommended by the WHO for use in healthcare settings and for general hand hygiene.
Non-Alcohol-based Hand Disinfectants
Non-alcohol-based hand disinfectants are less common than alcohol-based ones, but they are still effective against germs. They contain different active ingredients, such as benzalkonium chloride, triclosan, and chlorhexidine gluconate. These agents kill germs by disrupting their cell membranes and interfering with their metabolism.
Non-alcohol-based hand disinfectants are generally gentler on the skin than alcohol-based ones. They are also less flammable and have a longer shelf life. However, they may take longer to kill germs, and some studies suggest that they may not be as effective as alcohol-based ones.
Choosing the Right Hand Disinfectant
When choosing a hand disinfectant, it is essential to consider its effectiveness, safety, and suitability for the intended use. Here are some factors to consider:
- Active Ingredients: Look for a hand disinfectant that contains effective active ingredients such as ethanol or isopropanol (for alcohol-based ones) or benzalkonium chloride, triclosan, or chlorhexidine gluconate (for non-alcohol-based ones).
- Concentration: The concentration of the active ingredient in the hand disinfectant should be at a level that is effective against the intended microorganisms.
- Formulation: Choose a hand disinfectant that is formulated for the intended use. For example, if you are using it in a healthcare setting, choose one that is specifically designed for healthcare settings.
- Safety: Look for a hand disinfectant that is safe for use. Check for any warnings or precautions on the label.
- Skin Sensitivity: If you have sensitive skin, choose a hand disinfectant that is gentle on the skin. Some alcohol-based ones may be too harsh for sensitive skin.
How to Use Hand Disinfectants
To use hand disinfectants effectively, follow these steps:
- Apply a sufficient amount of hand disinfectant to the palm of one hand.
- Rub your hands together, covering all surfaces of your hands, including between your fingers and under your nails.
- Continue rubbing your hands together until the hand disinfectant has evaporated.
- Do not rinse your hands or wipe them off until the hand disinfectant has completely dried.
When to Use Hand Disinfectants
Hand disinfectants should be used regularly to prevent the spread of germs. Here are some situations when hand disinfectants are particularly important:
- Before and after preparing food
- Before eating or drinking
- After using the restroom
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching animals or animal waste
- After handling garbage
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
Hand disinfectants are a simple but effective way of preventing the spread of diseases. They are particularly important in healthcare settings and during pandemics and epidemics such as COVID-19. When choosing a hand disinfectant, it is essential to consider its effectiveness, safety, and suitability for the intended use.
Hand disinfectants should be used regularly to prevent the spread of germs, especially in situations where soap and water are not readily available. By making hand disinfectants a part of our daily routine, we can all do our part in preventing the spread of diseases and keeping ourselves and others safe.