It’s good news for everyone that the number of new Covid-19 infections in the U.S. are consistently dropping. And with vaccines now largely available to everyone 12 and older, the numbers will hopefully continue to trend in the right direction.
Over these past few weeks, many of us have visited family and friends we haven’t seen for more than a year, enjoyed a museum or restaurant for the first time in ages, and maybe even booked a trip.
One of the reasons many of us have managed to stay healthy this past year-and-a-half is because we’ve taken measures such as social distancing, masking, and regularly washing or sanitizing our hands. Whether you engaged in panic buying hand sanitizer last spring or not, (we’re not judging. It was a scary time), chances are you now have at least half-a-dozen half-full bottles of hand sanitizer lurking on your countertops, or hanging out in your car, coat pockets, or at the bottom of your bag.
What to do with all this hand sanitizer? Do you still need it? Or is it time to bid it goodbye with so much else from these past months?
Handwashing Versus Hand Sanitizer
Even before the pandemic, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) consistently advised that, whenever possible, washing one’s hands for at least twenty seconds is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of illness. However, the FDA also states that when there is no access to running water or soap, hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol is the second best option to ensure healthy, clean hands.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) echoes this information, stating that while soap and water work to remove all types of germs from hands, hand sanitizer only kills some germs on the skin. However, when soap and water aren’t available, the CDC, like the FDA, notes that hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs in many situations, and generally stop or slow the spread of illness. Plus, many hand sanitizers contain ingredients like aloe vera, which can leave your hands feeling much smoother and softer than soap and water.
When to Use Hand Sanitizer (And When Not To)
Obviously, hand sanitizer is a good option for things like picnics or camping trips when access to soap and running water may be limited, but here are other times hand sanitizer can come in handy.
- Use hand sanitizers when you are visiting friends and family members in hospitals or other communal care facilities. A squirt on your hands when you enter and exit the room can keep you from bringing germs in and taking them out with you.
- Use hand sanitizers before passing out snacks at sports practices or outdoor parties.
- Use hand sanitizer after touching doorknobs, handles, banisters, or other high-touch public areas.
- Use hand sanitizer regularly when you are interacting with people with weakened immune systems. This shouldn’t replace hand washing, but complement it.
- PLEASE NOTE: Hand sanitizer disinfects hands, but it does not clean them. You should not rely on hand sanitizer when your hands are dirty, greasy, or gritty. Hand sanitizer will not remove chemicals or residues from your hands.
You should not use hand sanitizers on skin that has cuts, scratches, or blisters. The alcohol in hand sanitizers will cause pain. Wash these wounds with soap and water and apply bandages to keep them clean.
The long and short of it is, even once Covid-19 is a distant memory, (we’re excited for that day too!), there will still be germs and viruses on our hands, so don’t go throwing all those bottles of sanitizer away just yet.
The trick is to use hand sanitizer only when soap and water are not available, and to use it sparingly. This is because using hand sanitizer too frequently can kill off types of bacteria that are beneficial to our bodies, which in turn can compromise our microbiomes and weaken our immune systems. Using hand sanitizer too often can also contribute to the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs, which is something none of us want. Using hand sanitizer now and again shouldn’t have this impact, but using it every hour, on the hour, just might.
That being said, having a stash of high-quality hand sanitizer in your back pocket for on-the-go use is never a bad idea. If you’re looking to replace your dwindling stock of hand sanitizer, check out Pureomeo’s all-natural hand sanitizers. Our cruelty-free sanitizers are made with organic cane alcohol and the highest quality essential oils. They also contain vegetable glycerin and aloe vera, which gently moisturize your skin. Our hand sanitizer is handmade with love in small batches in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and comes in both French Lavender and Purifying Woods (sandalwood, patchouli, wild clove) varieties.
Here’s to your health! And here’s to hoping that the next year will be so much better than what’s behind us, (it has to be, right?).