Grab it Wipe it – Squirt it – Rub it. It is the hand sanitizer boogie. OK, so perhaps I won’t try and turn this to the next Gangnam Style dance craze. Despite the fact that, I think it is. Hand sanitizing is a popular practice and available at grocery cart stations, banks, schools and other public areas where your hand could potentially touch where someone else’s hand – or hands – has already been. And you have no idea where those hands have been before. Just the idea makes you grab the nearest available hand sanitizer, which very well could be in your pocket, handbag or coat.
The use of hand sanitizers is a custom of preventing pathogens, virus bugs and bacteria from doing their sneezing, wheezing and, sometimes, nauseating attacks on we humans and our kids. Good or bad, we are a germaphobic society. The awareness that microorganisms cause illness, disease and even death has been one of the more valuable discoveries in medicine. The question on the lips and minds of some is – have we taken it too far?
But I mostly say this since germaphobia may be unhealthy, both emotionally and physically, that has been shown by the development of seriously lethal antibiotic resistant bacteria and the stress that some folks put themselves through over avoiding germs – the constant strain of disinfecting every inch of the surroundings. Awareness is good, paranoia into the extent of overdoing isn’t. 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 building 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 that your kids get sick.
Its debatable whether with a hand sanitizer has a powerful negative effect on adaptive immunity. Research does show that the use of hand sanitizers does cut down on sick days taken by school kids, but is not clear on if this cuts down on the amount of illness kids develop throughout childhood.
Triclosan. Bad. The evidence is not entirely 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 which merit further review. However, data showing effects in animals don’t always predict effects in humans. Other studies in bacteria have increased the possibility that triclosan contributes to creating bacteria resistant to antibiotics.”
The fantastic thing is, triclosan is not even necessary in a hand sanitizer. The major ingredient in the very best hand sanitizers is alcohol. The content has to be at least 60% ethanol (alcohol) for the product to be 99% effective.
Alcohol. Good or bad?
There is apparently no resistance developed by bacteria to alcohol – hence 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 tumultuous effect on the intestinal flora of the gut. The jury remains out on this one. I advise caution and a leaning toward limited, or no use of sanitizers, so as to not undermine the natural flora of the skin.
Now, let us look at obsessive hand sanitizing. In 1 report there showed no break down of the lipid barrier with health professionals using an alcohol based sanitizer when the sanitizer also included a moisturizer. Many sanitizers have aloe or glycerin which would count as moisturizers.
I’d raise caution with continuous use of alcohol sanitizers and highly recommend, if over sanitizing is called for, with a hand cream periodically during the day which has similar lipids as those found in the skin’s barrier.
In conclusion I would need to say that you ought to avoid anything with triclosan in it. Wash your hands often – though this may lead to irritation to the skin greater than an alcohol sanitizer if the soaps are too harsh, which many are. If you must 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 is to support your immune system and your resistance to pathogens through a healthy diet, supplements, sufficient sleep, de-stressing and a few daily drops of an essential oil like MQV diluted in massage oil and rubbed across the chest, back of the knees and toes.
In my next article I’ll provide some very powerful options to most hand sanitizers. Of course they’ll contain well known antibacterial essential oils