Gastrointestinal infection happens when bacteria are ingested through the contaminated food that we eat. Dirty hands are one of the common food contaminants. A healthcare personal hand wash also known as hand sanitizer is a supplement to hand washing to ensure that bacteria present on our hands are killed. Hand sanitizers that contain alcohol as their active ingredient are considered to be more effective in killing germs compared to soaps. There are active ingredients used to kill the bacteria like triclosan or benzalkonium chloride, however due to its harmful ingredients which may cause damage to the environment or even to the human body, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are still recommended.
Hand sanitizers are just a supplement to hand washing and should not to replace soap and water for hand hygiene especially for dirty hands. For hands that are not visibly dirty, sanitizing them with hand sanitizer would eliminate the germs or bacteria present on them. To make it effective, the hand sanitizer's alcohol content must be above 60% so as to kill the microbes. For hospital and clinic settings, the alcohol content requirement is higher, which is 70% to reach its optimal level in killing germs.
In hospitals, hand sanitizers or hand-rubs are used for hygienic hand rubbing and surgical hand disinfection purposes. This is extensively used in replacement of antiseptic soap, which has less skin tolerance and microbial properties. When administering medical treatments, hospital personnel are required to disinfect their hands by using hand sanitizer. Surgical hand disinfection through the use of hand sanitizer is necessary before any surgical procedure. This is done twice so as to ensure that the germs or bacteria that might be present on the hands of the doctor are killed prior to surgical operation.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water to prevent the widespread of killer diseases. Using hand sanitizer after hand washing will ensure that the bacteria or viruses will be killed. Bacteria such as antibiotic resistant bacteria and TB bacteria as well as viruses like the flu virus and common cold virus and even fungi are killed by alcohol rubs or hand sanitizers containing 60% alcohol.
In recent experiments it was found that bacteria grew rapidly when any extra procedure other than washing with soap and water has not been done. Microbial growth was drastically diminished after washing with soap and water but when sanitizer was applied, the bacteria were totally eliminated. This is due to the alcohol present in the solution. The alcohol kills the microorganism in less than 30 seconds. To make the hand sanitizer effective, the amount of sanitizer should be more than enough to apply or rub it on hand in 30 seconds. If ever the hand sanitizer dries up in less than 30 seconds, it is necessary to get more and repeat the process.
Bacteria are always present on our hands but when we use hand sanitizer and apply it properly, the growth of bacteria tends to slow down. Hand sanitizer though should not replace hand washing.