Health & Wellness

Proper Sanitization in Today’s World: The Risks of Over Sanitizing

Let’s take a moment and discuss proper sanitization. Over the last year, it’s safe to say that we’ve used more hand sanitizer than ever before—and with good reason. But here’s the key question: Are we now over sanitizing?

The truth of the matter is that hand sanitizer exposure cases have been through the roof. Are there any long-term effects from this? That was a question I had, so I decided to dive into the research, and what I found was shocking.

Please take a few minutes to learn what I uncovered along with some tips for proper sanitization going forward.

 

The Effects of Over Sanitizing in Our Modern World

It’s no secret that we’ve been battling a global pandemic for over a year now. Within a week of it hitting the U.S., stores were overwhelmingly sold out of three products: toilet paper, home cleaner, and hand sanitizer.

After all, at the time, we weren’t sure if COVID-19 lived on surfaces or not, and we also weren’t sure if it was a major cause of the spread, so we used every precaution possible.

As a result, we cleaned every surface possible and also used unprecedented amounts of hand sanitizer as an extra precaution.

We used so much, in fact, that in the first five months of 2020, the American Association of Poison Control Center reported 9,504 alcoholic hand sanitizer exposure cases in children ages 12 and younger.

Moreover, studies have confirmed that even just a small amount of alcohol exposure can cause alcohol poisoning in children. The result? Confusion, vomiting, and drowsiness—and in severe cases, it can lead to respiratory arrest and death.

Another concern regarding the increased use of hand sanitizer? According to research, the frequent use of hand sanitizers has increased our risk of experiencing anti-microbial resistance and, as a result, actually increases our risk of catching other viral diseases! [1]

In fact, the alcohol in hand sanitizer is known to dry out your skin, causing damage that increases your risk of having a virus enter into your skin. [2]

Additionally, a 2011 survey of 160 care facilities revealed that facilities who used hand sanitizers were six times more likely to experience norovirus outbreaks than those who used soap and water. [3]

Now, we know that COVID-19 numbers are down significantly, though a few cases are still circulating. And now we have new strains causing some concern. [4] So what does this mean for proper sanitization? Let’s take a look at the research and discuss what you should be doing going forward.

 

Proper sanitization - Dr. Pingel

 

3 Tips for Proper Sanitization Going Forward

Here are a few science-backed tips for proper sanitization as we move forward.

1. Use soap and water instead.

As the study above revealed, using soap and water is not only superior to hand sanitizer, but it’s also safer due to the lack of alcohol. So, if you’re in a place where you can access soap and water, don’t simply choose the easier option of hand sanitizer.

To practice proper sanitization, save the hand sanitizer for when you know you can’t access soap and water.

2. Make your own hand sanitizer for on-the-go.

When it comes to proper sanitization, one thing I like to do is make my own hand sanitizer so I know exactly what’s in it.

While my recipe does call for alcohol, if I know I’m going to be using it frequently, I sub out the alcohol for water.

You’ll still get anti-microbial protection from the tea tree oil, which has been shown to kill many microbes. Plus, the omission of alcohol makes it kid-friendly.

3. Apply moisturizer after hand sanitizer use.

As we learned from the studies above, one of the big risks of using too much hand sanitizer is that it dries out the skin, causing it to crack and allow for more viral penetration via your skin.

One thing I recommend doing for proper sanitization is applying moisturizer after using hand sanitizer to mitigate this effect.

My personal favorite moisturizer is coconut oil. It’s not only an amazing moisturizer but it’s also known for its anti-microbial properties, meaning it offers even more protection against pathogens. Just a tiny bit will do, too, because a little goes a long way.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Over the last year, it’s safe to say that we’ve used more hand sanitizer than ever before—and with good reason. But here’s the key question: Are we now over sanitizing?
  • Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve used unprecedented amounts of hand sanitizer as an extra precaution.
  • In the first five months of 2020, the American Association of Poison Control Center reported 9,504 alcoholic hand sanitizer exposure cases in children ages 12 and younger.
  • In order to practice proper sanitization, try to use soap and water over hand sanitizer, consider making your own hand sanitizer, and apply moisturizer after use.

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