Hand Sanitizer: Just the Facts

There are two types of hand sanitizers, alcohol based and non-alcohol based.  Alcohol based hand sanitizers typically contain at least 60% alcohol.  Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are less likely to cause antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria than alcohol-free ones.

Most people only use one push of the pump when applying hand sanitizers, but studies have shown that this amount is probably not enough for effective use.  You need a “loonie-sized” amount that takes 15 – 20 seconds of hand rubbing to dry.  “To get clean hands, it is very important to have your hands wet for 15 seconds – and it is easiest for all of us, if we can get that volume with one pump,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, Microbiologist, Infectious Disease Consultant, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario.  Wet contact time of less than 15 seconds may be an indication too little product was applied for optimal hand sanitizing.

What’s the best way to use alcohol-based hand sanitizers?

Ontario’s Provincial Infectious Diseases Advisory Committee, recommends:

  • Remove jewelry.  Jewelry is very hard to clean, and hides bacteria and viruses from the antiseptic action of the alcohol.
  • Ensure hands are visibly clean (if soiled, wash hands with soap and water).
  • Apply between 1 to 2 full pumps of product, or squirt a loonie-sized amount, onto one palm.
  • Spread product over all surfaces of hands, concentrating on finger tips, between fingers, back of hands, and base of thumbs. These are the most commonly missed areas.
  • Rub hands until product is dry. This will take a minimum of 15 to 20 seconds if sufficient product is used.

When should I use hand sanitizer?

  • When you’ve coughed or sneezed into your hand, or blown your nose
  • Any time after you’ve been in contact with someone who is sick
  • Any time you’ve been shaking hands with people and you don’t know if they are ill
  • Before eating
  • After using the bathroom

What precautions should I take?

  • Keep out of reach of children (they contain alcohol)
  • Supervise young children when using these products.
  • Read all product labels and follow instructions carefully.
  • Do not use on children under two years of age
  • Never swallow or put hand sanitizer in your mouth
  • Avoid getting hand sanitizers into your eyes
  • Alcohol‐based hand sanitizers are flammable so never use near heat or flame

Since originally publishing this article, we learned at Health Achieve 2012 in Toronto, that Deb Group has a product called Microsan® Optidose, that dispenses the optimal amount of hand sanitizer with just one push.  Their National Product Manager – Healthcare Division, David Green, said, “We recognized it was easier to come up with a product that matched user practice [of just dispensing one push at a time], than try and change user behaviour.”

If you’re interested is seeing how to properly apply hand sanitizer, check out this youtube video (note, this physician recommends 20 – 30 seconds), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tn_E7XhW9vQ, or check out instructions  from the City of Toronto at http://www.toronto.ca/health/cdc/clean_hands/pdf/hand_sanitizing.pdf









2Ascribe Inc. is a medical transcription agency located in Toronto, Ontario Canada, providing medical transcription services to physicians, clinics and healthcare providers across Canada.  Our medical transcription services include referral letters, patient notes, as well as independent medical examinations (IMEs) for Ontario as well as all other provinces across Canada.  As a service to our clients and the healthcare industry, 2Ascribe offers articles of interest to medical professionals and office staff, as well as of general interest.  Established in 2002, 2Ascribe offers quality medical transcription, rapid turnaround (including STAT and same day) and excellent customer service.  For more information on our medical transcription services please contact us at info@2ascribe.com or 1-866-503-4003.

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