In light of the recent coronavirus scare and increasing numbers of people with the flu, hand sanitizers are flying off the shelves at local drug stores. It’s not surprising that people want to take preventative measures to keep themselves safe from the viruses, but is hand sanitizer the best defense against influenza or coronavirus?
It’s safe to say that people have become reliant on hand sanitizers for cleaning germs off their hands. Companies market these products as “antibacterial” or “antimicrobial,” but most scientists say that they are not very effective and can engender bacterial strains that resist antibiotics. While the use of hand sanitizers may be effective when soap and water are nowhere in sight, the chemicals in them are often harmful to your health. Some common chemicals include triclosan, artificial fragrances, and artificial dyes.
How Do Germs Spread?
While hand sanitizer may cut down on the transmission of germs, there is no guarantee that it will do so. Germs spread several different ways, the primary of which include:
- Direct contact (someone coughs in their hand and then you shake hands with them)
- Indirect contact (you touch a shopping cart, which is covered in germs, and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands)
- Airborne (someone coughs or sneezes and those droplets are inhaled by someone else)
The Negatives Of Hand Sanitizer
Triclosan is to blame for the disruption of hormones. According the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), triclosan may lead to hormonal disruption and cause bacteria to adapt to its antimicrobial properties. This means that hand sanitizers may become less effective at fighting germs the more you use them. Since animal studies showed that triclosan can change hormones, further investigation was initiated to understand the effect is has in humans.
If you purchase scented hand sanitizer, it is most likely loaded with artificial fragrances, dyes, and other chemical compounds. The manufacturers aren’t required to disclose the ingredients that make up signature scents, which are often made from countless chemicals. Synthetic fragrances often contain phthalates, which are known endocrine disrupters that have the potential to alter genital development.
May Affect Immune Function
The very thing that is supposed to be protecting you from germs may be decreasing immune function. According to research conducted at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, triclosan may negatively impact the human immune system. The study found that children and teens with higher levels of triclosan in the body were more likely to develop allergies and hay fever.
DIY Hand Sanitizer Spray #1
- 2 ounces witch hazel
- 1 teaspoon vitamin E oil
- 5 drops tea tree essential oil
- 2 drops lemon essential oil
- Add all of the ingredients to a spray bottle, screw on the top, and shake to mix well.
- Spray on hands, rub thoroughly, and allow to air dry.
DIY Hand Sanitizer Spray #2
- 2 oz spray bottle
- 10 drops eucalyptus essential oil
- 10 drops witch hazel
- 5 drops vitamin E oil
- 5 drops pure aloe vera juice
- Distilled water
- Add everything, except the water, to a spray bottle. Screw on the top and shake well to mix the ingredients.
- Unscrew the top and fill the remainder of the bottle with distilled water. Shake before using.