Hand Sanitizers: Good or Bad?

washing handsWith the recent news about the rise in superbugs--which are antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections like MRSA--I wanted to find out if hand-sanitizing lotions were making the problem worse.

See, some people say applying Purell or other brands make common bacteria morph into resistant bacteria more quickly. I personally don't like hand sanitizers because the alcohol in these products dries out my hands and makes my skin so itchy.

Kaycee14 agrees with me. She wrote into Health Questions that good old soap and water are just as good as hand sanitizers.

But I wanted to see what two experts think: Are hand sanitizers good or bad?


Nurse Felicia Marie Tomasko, RN, from TheHolisticOption.com

“Instant hand sanitizers may be tempting to use for a quick fix, but research is conflicting as to whether they are a direct substitute for under the sink hand washing. Hand sanitizers can be helpful if you’re away from a sink or need a quick fix. Generally, I prefer alcohol-free hand sanitizers, as alcohol can be irritating to the skin and can lead to cracks which can promote, not prevent, the spread of infection. There are a number of different essential oils, such as tea tree, lavender, rosemary, thyme, tuberose, basil and oregano that have antibacterial effects.”

Verdict on hand sanitizers: Only when soap and water aren't available

Nurse Kerry Montefour, infection preventionist at Banner Good Samaritan Medical Center:

"Alcohol has been used as a skin antiseptic agent for several decades and is very effective in killing bacteria. Alcohol is not an antibiotic. Killed bacteria cannot mutate or produce resistance. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are extremely effective in killing many different types of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Alcohol solutions containing at least 62 percent alcohol are the most effective. Most products contain emollients, which prevent drying. They are safe and easy to use. Numerous studies have illustrated that alcohol-based products are more effective for standard hand washing than soap and water. They are not appropriate for use when hands are visibly dirty. Traditional hand washing with soap and water should then be used."

Verdict on hand sanitizers: It's safe and effective.

What do you think about hand sanitizers? Do you use them? Like them?

Read More >