Hand sanitizer is a quick and easy way to stay clean on the go, but the quick fix is getting a bad wrap about whether or not it kills germs.
Dr. Stephen Hsu, a Georgia Regents University researcher, tackles the five common myths about hand sanitizers.
Myth #1: Hand sanitizers only prevent colds.
“Studies in a number of research journals show us that EGCG protects human cells from infection of HIV, herpes, norovirus, hepatitis B and C viruses, human papilloma virus, even Ebola, according to recently published antiviral research by the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases ,” said Hsu, a recipient of the 2015 Georgia Bio Innovation Award. “The significance of this technology is the potential to save thousands, if not tens of thousands, of lives from a variety of viral infections.”
As a result of the research, Camellix plans to donate shipments of its new EGCG sanitizer and lotion to military personnel fighting the spread of Ebola in West Africa.
Myth #2: Hand sanitizers replace hand washing.
“Soap and water are still the best way to clean the skin. When they’re not available, hand sanitizers are a great option,” Hsu said. “Sanitizers work best when your hands aren’t overly dirty or greasy, so if it’s possible, you always want to wash or wipe down your hands first to remove visible grime.”
Myth # 3: All hand sanitizers are created equally.
Most sanitizers kill bacteria and some viruses with alcohol, which evaporates in about 20 seconds. “This is fine for immediate cleansing if applied correctly, but it is temporary,” Hsu said. “The key is to provide a long-lasting barrier against viruses. The unique ProtecTeaV® formulation provides a 2-hour barrier by combining alcohol with lipophilic EGCG, a compound patented by Georgia Regents University.”
Myth # 4: Sanitizers kill all bacteria and viruses.
Most bacteria can be killed by alcohol-based sanitizers, but in order to effectively kill viruses, the concentration of alcohol must be very high, or about 90 percent,, which is dangerously flammable.
“With norovirus, for example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing hands with soap and water frequently to prevent infection instead of relying solely on alcohol-based sanitizers,” Hsu said. “The rabies and polio viruses are also resistant to alcohol. Compounds to kill these alcohol-resistant viruses are urgently needed. We believe EGCG, especially lipophilic EGCG, is an excellent candidate.”
Myth #5: There is no wrong way to use hand sanitizer.
“The sanitizer can’t do its job if it isn’t applied properly,” Hsu said. “Put a nickel-sized dollop of the product in the palm of one hand and rub hands together, until the surface of your hands and fingers are coated. Keep rubbing until dry. For the best results, wash and dry your hands before using hand sanitizer, then follow with lotion.”