With flu season coming back around and the scare of the Ebola virus striking fear into everyone, the latest news about antibacterial hand gel or hand sanitizers comes at not so good a time.
CNN recently reported that these trusty little bottles of germ-free goodness might not be all that they're cracked up to be. Despite the claims that they kill germs, rumour has it that these go-to hand cleansers are actually stripping our hands of the ability to fight germs and not really protecting us at all. Say it ain't so!
The main ingredient in hand sanitizers that's getting the spotlight right now is triclosan. This is the primary component in nonalcoholic hand gels.
"There's no good evidence that triclosan-containing products have a benefit," explained Allison Aiello, associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan to CNN. The expert also noted that in Europe and the United States, hospitals won't even use these hand gels, as they are thought not to help reduce infections or illness.
"Triclosan-containing products don't provide any disease protection beyond what you get from washing with soap and water," the professor continued.
What's even worse is triclosan can make us more susceptible to unwanted germs.
"When you expose bacteria to triclosan, it can elicit antibiotic resistance," Aiello said. "Once the resistance is transferred, [pathogenic] bacteria can become resistant to many types of antibiotics."
So what are we supposed to do instead of using these hand gels, once believed to be germ lifesavers when there isn't a sink or soap around? The answer: alcohol-based hand gels are your best bet.
"Hand sanitizers that are 60% alcohol are good at killing bacterial pathogens," Dr. Anna Bowen, a medical epidemiologist at The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended. "They're not a panacea, but if you can't wash your hands, a squirt of an alcohol-based hand gel is a good idea," the doctor continued.
Which brings the experts back to be best way to fight germs: proper hand washing.
"You need to wash for about 24 seconds to remove the bacteria and viruses from your hands," Aiello explained. "Most people don't wash their hands properly. You need to cover all parts of your hands, including under your nails -- and then dry your hands well."
To ensure you're taking the full 24 seconds, doctors suggest you sing the "Happy Birthday" song two times.
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