COVID-19: Not All Hand Sanitizers Are Effective Against Coronavirus. Here’s Why!

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Since the outbreak of the contagious coronavirus, many health organizations including the World Health Organization (WHO) has advised people to use hand sanitizers to prevent the spread of the virus. Even though hand sanitizers can help reduce our risk of getting some kinds of infections, not all hand sanitizers are equally effective against coronavirus.

This has lead to a shortage of commercial hand sanitizers in the market and has also made the prices of hand sanitizers soar. Due to the outrageous increase in the prices of hand sanitizers, many people around the world have resorted to making their own hand sanitizers.

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Even though organizations like WHO have clearly stated the ingredients and guidelines to prepare hand effective sanitizers, the problem is many people are still not aware and do not actually know where to get the ingredients or even how to prepare effective hand sanitizers themselves.

Types of Hand Sanitizers

There are two types of hand sanitizer: alcohol-based sanitizers and alcohol-free sanitizers. The alcohol-based hand sanitizers contain varying amounts and types of alcohol, usually between 60% and 95%. The types of alcohol used are mostly isopropyl alcohol, ethanol (ethyl alcohol) or n-propanol. Alcohol is known to be able to kill most germs as they reduce the number and types of microbes that could make us sick.

Alcohol-free hand sanitizers, on the other hand, are said to contain something called quaternary ammonium compounds (usually benzalkonium chloride) instead of alcohol. These can reduce microbes but are less effective when compared with alcohol.

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Not only are alcohol-based hand sanitizers found to be effective at killing many types of bacteria, including MRSA and E Coli, they’re also effective against many viruses, including the influenza A virusrhinovirushepatitis A virusHIV, and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV).

How Effective Is The Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer

According to Mana Mohammed – a Lecturer of Medical Microbiology at the University of Westminster, Alcohol attacks and destroys the envelope protein that surrounds some viruses, including coronaviruses. This protein is vital for a virus’s survival and multiplication. But a hand sanitizer needs to be at least 60% alcohol in order to effectively kill most viruses.

She added that hand sanitizers with less than 60% alcohol were also found to be less effective at killing bacteria and fungi and may only reduce the growth of germs rather than killing them outright.

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Hand sanitizers with even the right amount of alcohol in it, that is between 60% and 90% cannot remove all kinds of germs. A recent study has confirmed that “handwashing” is more effective to remove noroviruses, Cryptosporidium (a parasite that can cause diarrhea), and Clostridium difficile (bacteria which cause bowel problems and diarrhea).

So far washing your hands with soap under running water for 20seconds or more is more effective than using hand sanitizers but if you want to use hand sanitizers or prepare some on your own, follow this guide and make sure your alcohol percentage make up is between 60% – 90%.

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If you cannot have access to running water and soap at your workplace, school or anywhere you find yourself, just use the hand sanitizer and don’t forget to wash your hands under running water, first thing when you get home.

Sources:

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  • World Health Organisation (WHO)
  • UNICEF
  • The Conversation
  • The Jarkata Post

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