Waterless or alcohol hand sanitizers are ubiquitous, but do they actually kill germs like MRSA?
Although most hand gels claim to kill 99.9% of harmful germs and bacteria, hand sanitizers with less than 60% ethyl or isopropyl alcohol are not effective. In fact, using an alcohol sanitizer with only 40% alcohol might not reduce bacteria on your hands at all. For example, to kill Staph aureus, the bacteria responsible for MRSA (methicillin resistant staph aureus) infections, you must use a sanitizer with at least 62% alcohol.
- Use a hand gel with between 62% and 95% ethyl alcohol (higher than 95% alcohol might ironically be less effective).
- Rub it vigorously into your hands, including in between your fingers and along your nails, until the gel has dried.
- How much gel should you use? Enough to keep rubbing for 20 seconds without drying completely. If the alcohol evaporates in less than 15 seconds, then you’re not using enough.
You should also use it after:
- sneezing, blowing your nose, or coughing
- using shopping carts
- going to the gym
- using public computers, telephones, or ATMs
- handling a baby diaper or toys
- playing with small children or attending places such as parks and jungle gyms
- coming in contact with animals, including your own beloved Fluffy
- before seeing your next patient (this one’s for me)
Post written by Jeffrey Benabio, MD
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Photo credit: YW Lim