The coronavirus pandemic we currently face has us questioning what is best for us in terms of reducing infection and also how we can help or boost our immunity system to better deal with the infection if unfortunately, we contract the virus.
Many authorities are advising how to deal with both these issues and it’s hard to know what to believe and what is best for you.
Today I am going to discuss hand sanitisers and our immunity system.
I have been asked over the past few weeks about the best way to deal with reducing the risk of infection through the use of hand sanitisers and also what is best to boost the immunity system to combat it if infected. As always, I have done a great deal of research and used my understanding and knowledge to try to answer these complex questions. It is not only consumers that have asked these questions but also my family, (including my mother who is in her 80’s and fit and healthy), and the people I work with who have elderly grandparents and young children. All these people have one thing in common and that is they are confused and scared.
So, as I have explained to all of them and I will explain to you, some hand sanitisers are better than others and there are ways to boost your immune system, and in the process, become educated so you can see through the misinformation constantly bombarding you. This is a difficult time in our lives, but the human race has been through far worse situations.
My first suggestion is a simple one. If you think what you will say may cause anxiety and stress to others, and you are only repeating it from other sources that you have not verified, then it’s best to check the information first and confirm it as rumours. Misinformation can spread faster and cause far bigger problems than the coronavirus.
We are all using hand sanitisers which I believe will become standard practise into the future. I want to give you another perspective on this and other considerations we should be taking into account.
Sometimes us humans don’t get it right, and that something that eliminates a problem may cause many other issues. Let’s take the case of Thalidomide. Thalidomide is a medication when first released in 1957 was promoted for anxiety, trouble sleeping and morning sickness. While initially deemed to be safe in pregnancy, concerns regarding birth defects were noted in 1961 and the medication was removed from the market in Europe that year. The total number of people affected by use during pregnancy is estimated at 10,000, of which about 40% died around the time of birth. Those who survived had limb, eye, urinary tract, and heart problems.
Hand sanitisers are not regulated by the therapeutic goods administration as they are not deemed a therapeutic good. Even the claim ‘kills 99.9% of germs is not regulated’.
I’m guessing most people buy hand sanitisers because of the word “sanitiser” and the claim ‘kills 99.9% of germs’ but these products do not need to prove either of these claims and is why washing your hands with soap and water is as effective as the hand sanitisers.
But before you throw away your hand sanitiser product, I want you to consider that if you can’t wash your hands with soap and water, they are a good alternative. I will elaborate which ones I believe give the best benefit with the least side effects.
So let’s get into the actives in hand sanitisers. Each of these actives are effective anti-microbial agents so I’m not going into if they work or not as they all do. What I’m going to talk about are the other issues that these agents cause and how effective they are when applied and rubbed onto hands.
Ethanol / Alcohol
This is the most popular active used in most sanitisers and is used between 60 – 95% in the product. From my research, it is the fastest acting agent against pathogens (bugs) in a laboratory. Ethanol is also extremely flammable, especially at the percentages used in these products. The reason the percentage is so high is that for ethanol to be effective. it needs to be above 65% of the total product. When applied to the hands, the product quickly evaporates and absorbs losing its activity against the bugs. The evaporation draws water out of the skin and dehydrates, which may cause irritation and redness. The absorption may end up in your cellular tissue and I don’t need to explain the health problems associated with alcohol absorption even in small amounts. What astounds me more is that many of the products state they are safe for children and pregnant women.
Methanol / Methylated spirits
This material is toxic. In no circumstances should this be used. The damage to your skin is the same as ethanol. This material seems to be making the rounds on the “how to make your own hand sanitiser” forums.
Isopropanol / Rubbing Alcohol
There are many products which contain this active. It is extremely irritating and can be toxic when inhaled. The damage to your skin is the same as ethanol.
Like methylated spirits, this material is making the rounds on the ‘how to make your own hand sanitiser’ forums. This material is an oxidising and bleaching agent and mild antiseptic. Putting this on your hands is going to cause major problems to the skin.
As you know, I believe in using actives that work but will not disrupt or damage the cellular structure, so sometimes synthetic substances are better than the perceived natural ones. Antiseptic, disinfectant and sanitiser actives are all going to cause some disruption to the cellular structure due to the nature of them and their function.
This is a synthetic active used as disinfectant and antiseptic that is used for skin disinfection before surgery and to sterilise surgical instruments. It may be used to disinfect the skin of the patient and the hands of the healthcare providers. It is also used for cleaning wounds. The side effects may include skin irritation and allergic reactions in its undiluted pure form. From my research, the side effects are minimised to nearly zero in the diluted products on the market and the molecule is too large to penetrate the skin thus absorption is practically zero.
This is also a synthetic active used as disinfectant and antiseptic that is used for skin disinfection, mouthwashes, nasal drops and sprays. Like chlorhexidine, the side effects may include skin irritation and allergic reactions in its undiluted, pure form. From my research, the side effects are minimised to nearly zero in the diluted products on the market and the molecule is too large to penetrate the skin thus absorption is practically zero.
Many will say that alcohol sanitisers act faster than the two above but there are other studies that say the opposite. My view is that the alcohol ones evaporate and absorb extremely quickly giving little contact time with the bugs while the two synthetic ones above sit on the skin which gives greater contact time with the bugs.
My preferred choice of hand sanitiser would be one with Benzalkonium Chloride at 0.1% which should be printed on the front of the label. Most of these hand sanitisers contain no alcohol so the dryness, redness and irritation potential are minimised.