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March 2018

Fact or fiction: you always need to use hand sanitisers

Written by Lemay Rogers
Cleanliness and Hygiene

As a society we have become more aware of personal hygiene and wellness.We have seen social trends shift with open air yoga classes, rewards systems for healthy living and hand sanitisers in every imaginable space becoming more frequent.

Hand sanitisers are often a topic of contention and within some circles, the topic is up there with discussions around religion and politics - just don’t do it.The two extremes of the scale are people who believe there are many dangers associated with hand sanitiser and people who are obsessed with hand sanitiser. There are some good arguments made by both sides so let’s explore.

Research has shown that hand sanitisers with concentrations of 60 - 95% alcohol are more effective at killing germs than it’s low and non-alcohol based counterparts. People opposed to using these products will argue that the alcohol dries hands and could lead to accelerated ageing and skin damage. There are also concerns around weakened immune systems and antibacterial resistance as hand sanitisers limit exposure to bacteria.One would also need to consider that you are killing all bacteria - not just the harmful bacteria.

Read more about good and bad bacteria.  

For those who are pro-sanitiser, they will tell you that hand sanitiser is an effective way to minimise cross-contamination in high risk environments such as hospitals. Hand sanitisers are also useful in situations where soap and water isn’t available, for example, when you are outdoors or travelling on public transport. If proactive steps to curb the spread of bacteria in these circumstances aren’t taken, it could lead to it’s own series of repercussions including more frequent illness, absenteeism and at an extreme, antibiotic resistance - if antibiotics are prescribed too frequently to treat various illnesses.

One needs to take a more balanced view and realise that everything has its place. Hand sanitisers aren’t there to replace good hand washing habits with soap and water - our best defence against cross contamination. It is the “filler” for when hand washing isn’t possible or as part of a hand cleaning regime (like in patient care within hospitals).

You also need to consider which brand of hand sanitisers you use. As with most products you buy look at quality over price and read the label. For hand sanitisers, there have been concerns raised around the use of triclosan and phthalates so get the facts and look out for those indicators.

In essence, you shouldn’t use hand sanitiser all the time but use it when it counts!

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Lemay Rogers

Lemay Rogers

Lémay Rogers is the Marketing Manager for Rentokil Initial. When not contributing to the Initial blog, she is the custodian of all things Marketing for Rentokil Initial South Africa, and supports the Sub-Saharan African businesses. As a frequent traveller AND mother of a toddler, she is all too aware of how easily germs can travel with us, from one location to another and then back to our homes. Follow Lémay on Twitter and LinkedIn for practical advice on good hygiene practices, both at home and in the workplace.

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