COVID-19 precautions: The dos and don'ts of using a hand sanitiser everyone should keep in mind
Sanitise your hands whenever you touch any high-touch surface in a public space, such as doorknobs, the toilet flush and tabletops.
Since the spread of the COVID-19 infection majorly occurs through aerosols (tiny droplets that are not visible to the naked eye but are highly contagious), people have been asked to wear masks, maintain social distance and keep their hands clean all the time.
Hand sanitisers have become a popular way of maintaining hand hygiene in situations where water and soap aren’t available. But even hand sanitisers come with their own complexities. Here are the important dos and don’ts of using hand sanitisers to keep in mind to ensure maximum protection:
Dos of using hand sanitisers
1. Sanitise your hands whenever you touch any high-touch surface in a public space, such as doorknobs, the toilet flush and tabletops.
2. You must use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, which should contain 60 to 95 percent alcohol. Sanitisers without alcohol or with lower levels of alcohol would not provide any protection against the germs and they would still multiply on your skin.
3. The sanitiser should be enough to cover your hands and fingers (about 3ml). Rub it on your hands for about 20 seconds, until your hands start to feel dry.
4. You can make your own sanitiser by adding 80 percent ethanol or 75 percent isopropanol with aloe vera gel. The proportion of alcohol to aloe vera gel should be 2:1 to ensure that the total alcohol level of the sanitiser is 60 percent.
4. Do ensure that your hand sanitiser hasn’t expired. Alcohol content can reduce after a while and expired sanitiser may become less effective.
Don’ts of using hand sanitisers
1. Do not use a hand sanitiser if your hands are dirty or greasy as they do not work well on dirty hands. Wash your hands with soap and warm water instead to thoroughly clean them.
2. Don't rush while using hand sanitisers as they would not be effective if you rinse or wipe your hands before it dries on its own. You must rub your hands with the sanitiser for at least 20 seconds.
3. If your hands are contaminated with chemicals such as pesticides and heavy metals, sanitisers would not be able to clear them off your hands. You need to wash your hands with soap and warm water if you've come in contact with these chemicals.
4. Rather than using hand sanitisers, children should be encouraged to wash their hands as they can ingest the sanitiser. A child swallowing a tiny amount of an alcohol-based hand sanitiser could result in alcohol poisoning, which can be fatal for some.
5. Do not overuse hand sanitisers as they can make your skin extremely dry. Overuse of hand sanitisers can also disrupt the healthy microorganisms present on the surface of the skin, thus leaving one more vulnerable to infections. Overuse can also break down the skin, leaving it cracked and chapped, thus allowing the germs to enter through these crevices easily.
6. You must wash your hands after using hand sanitiser and before eating or cooking food. Consumption of 1-propanol, one of the ingredients found in some hand sanitisers, can lead to central nervous system depression. A person exposed to 1-propanol would present with symptoms such as confusion, decreased consciousness, and slower heart rate and breathing.
7. Do not use hand sanitisers to clean your food such as vegetables and fruits.
For more information, read our article on How to make hand sanitiser at home.
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