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Hand Sanitizer and Hand Wash

Hand sanitizer is quite commonly used to kill most of the microorganisms/viruses/bacteria on your hands. Hand sanitizer kills harmful bacteria and germs that are causing you illnesses and can make your hands dry, itchy and sometimes cause redness of the skin. Hand sanitizers do not kill the harmful bacteria that cause strep throat. Most schools and other institutions mandate hand sanitizer applications. For those that don't, they usually have the dispenser available for students.

Most establishments that require hand sanitizer also require that you wash your hands immediately after using the restroom and that you rinse your mouth and hands well. In many settings, hand washing is usually preferred over hand sanitizing. Reasons include not having time to get ready in time before hand sanitizing, concern about getting food particles on your hands, etc. Another reason may be to prevent potential methanol contamination of the hands or the area where the application is being made. However, some school districts have policies that require that students be fingerprinted when they use the restroom.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has determined that there is a reasonable assurance that fomulene glycol (a common ingredient in hand sanitizer) and triclosan (an agent used in anti-bacterial and anti-fungal skin products) present no unreasonable health risk when used as directed. FDA evaluated the safety of these ingredients based on published studies and found no evidence that they interfere with biological function or biological resistance of an and/or animal. Triclosan, on the other hand, was found to cause a level of probable tumors in test animals. Based on these findings, the FDA concluded that the safety of triclosan was not well established.

In deciding against the safety of hand washing with soap and water, the FDA based its decision on the lack of scientific data demonstrating that such practices reduce the risk of viral or bacterial infections. In addition, the agency noted that a substantial amount of research has been done in recent years on the efficacy of antibacterial agents for reducing the incidence of illness caused by a range of virus and bacteria, including the norovirus and the rotavirus. Based on this information, the FDA concluded that the benefits provided by antibacterial agents far outweigh any risks.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, hand sanitizer and hand wash are not substituting for hand-washing with soap and hot water. Hand sanitizers can help reduce bacterial contamination of the hands during contact with infectious objects or after being exposed to contaminated areas. Hand rubs provide a method of quickly reducing the number of bacteria and viruses on the hands, but they do not eliminate them. For persons who have a healthy immune system, the application of hand sanitizer or hand wash may be more effective than hand-rubbing. In persons with compromised immune systems, either agent may be more effective than the other.

Although hand sanitizer may be useful for reducing the risk of disease exposure, the cost of using it is impractical for many people. The most affordable and commonly used solution is to purchase a variety of hand sanitizer products, including wipes and sprays, and use them as directed. For persons who frequently wash their hands or handle contaminated surfaces, it is not necessary to purchase an entire container of sanitizing agents. A simple hand sanitizer or hand wash can remove the need to purchase other products. For persons whose immune systems are impaired, a physician should be consulted before beginning a regular program of hand washing. If illness is present, the physician can prescribe a more effective antibacterial agent to reduce the risks of infection or recurrence.

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