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December 2018

Fact or fiction: you always need to use hand sanitisers [Series]

Written by Lemay Rogers
Cleanliness and Hygiene, Handwashing and Hand Hygiene

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

Hand sanitisers are often a topic of contention and within some circles up there with discussions around religion and politics; just don’t do it. At one end of the spectrum are those people who believe there are many dangers associated with hand sanitiser, and at the other end are those people who are obsessed with hand sanitiser.  There are some good arguments to be made by both sides,  so let’s explore these.

Research has shown that hand sanitisers with concentrations of 60 - 95% alcohol are more effective at killing germs than low and non-alcohol based counterparts. People opposed to using these products argue that the alcohol dries hands and could lead to accelerated aging 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 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 aren’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 in the 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 sanitiser isn’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 sanitiser 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's Sub-Saharan Africa region. When not contributing to the Rentokil Initial blogs, she is the custodian of all things Marketing for Rentokil Initial Sub-Saharan Africa. As a frequent traveller AND mother of a pre-schooler, 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 LinkedIn for practical pest control advice and good hygiene practices, both at home and in the workplace.

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