By Tenille L. Lawson, PharmD, BCPS
Imagine this. It’s holiday picture day at your child’s school, and you have volunteered to be a “Proud Parent” helper. Your main job is to keep noses clean for those beautiful pictures that parents will cherish forever. Before you had a child, it was a no-brainer, if soap and water were not an option, the response was simple…RUN! Now that you have a child, and these occasions are commonplace, you have to be more practical. The little noses and germs are everywhere, so you must be prepared. After each nose cleaning, do you dash to the nearest sink to destroy any germs, or do you resort to the publicly displayed liquid hand sanitizer?
According to the CDC, if you have soap and water, use it! This method is the best way to reduce germ spread. If you are unable to use soap and water, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer where the label shows the contents are at least 60% alcohol.
In 2004 Medscape Medical News emphasized that one reason parents of daycare children should use alcohol-based hand sanitizer is because it reduces the germs carried home. One virus called Rotavirus, for example, is passed from one person to another by hand to mouth contact. It can cause severe diarrhea that may lead to life-threatening dehydration. According to many studies, using an alcohol-based sanitizer is one of the best ways to fight this infection especially if soap and water are unavailable. Additionally, users don’t develop resistance to alcohol.
Here are some things to remember if using hand sanitizer in place of good old soap and water:
- Soap and water should always be used if it is an option, especially if dirt is involved.
- Hand sanitizer must be used properly to be effective. It works when it remains on the skin for about 15 seconds. After applying to hands, do not wash or wipe it off. Allow it to dry naturally.
- Use at least a nickel or quarter size dollop of liquid to cover hands entirely.
- Also be aware that hand sanitizer looks and often smells yummy to kids. Because of the alcohol contained in each bottle, it may be harmful if ingested, especially in large quantities. Manufacturers such as Purell, create products with a bitter taste intentionally. Keep all hand sanitizers out of the reach of children.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-hand-sanitizer.html
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