Should we wash our hands off?

In mid 1800, it was noted by Ignal Sommeweiss in Vienna that death rates after delivery came down from 17% to 3 %, merely by insisting that doctors wash their hands with chlorinated lime solution , before attending to next patient. (Source:WHO Guidelines). We have moved on from then, to hand sanitisers. These are basically alcohol based rub and have the advantage of easy access , portability, and excellent outcomes in terms of disease prevention.

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Off late there have been discussions on whether the excessive usage of hand sanitiser adversely affects children’s immunity. There has been a report in Canadian Medical association Journal that it increases the risk of Norovirus infecttion that causes gastro entritis. But there are some other studies that counter it.

How to use Sanitisers

Squirt the hand sanitizer into palm of your right hand. Start rubbing your hands together gently. Finish up: Don’t dry your hands on a towel, it will be better to let them air dry.

Let us look at what these sanitisers are, and how are they different from normal soaps and water hand wash. One of the most common reason for spread of infection is through moist hands, since moisture is a good medium for multiplication of germs. On the other hand, since most of the sanitisers are alcohol based, it absorbs the moisture. In addition it also has the advantage of ease of carrying and storing.

Therefore it has found favour with those who travel a lot. It is especially useful when there is outbreak of Flu. Frequent usage can cut down the risk. The infection in this case can spread not only through persons but also through inanimate objects like seats, clothes and so on.

Another study notes that disinfecting the surfaces and usage of hand sanitiser did bring down students falling sick due to gastroentritis in elementary school students in America.

However, hand sanitisers should not be used as substitutes for hand washing.

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About Mukul Saxena 34 Articles
Col (Retd) Dr Mukul Saxena has over 30 years of cross-functional expertise in healthcare, both in public and private sectors.