Coronavirus: Safety Precautions With Use Of Hand Sanitizers
By Akinmutola Abayomi
The emergence of coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has rekindled the production, sales and use of hand sanitizers by both the young and old around the world. This is because they protect against disease causing organisms. Broadly, we have the alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and the alcohol-free hand sanitizers.
The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers with at least 60% ethanol (ethyl alcohol) or 70% isopropanol (isopropyl alcohol) as the preferred form of hand sanitizer against disease causing organisms. They are 99.99% effective at killing many types of bacteria, including viruses like the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). They exert this action by attacking and destroying the envelope protein that surrounds the virus.
Usually as a standard procedure, all good hand sanitizers have expiry date of about 2 to 3 years after its manufacturing date. This is because, its alcohol content dissolves over time and once this falls below 60%, it won’t be as effective at killing germs. However, the CDC maintains that the gold standard for hand hygiene and preventing the spread of infectious diseases is by always washing hands with soap and running water.
Despite the beneficial effects of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, they evaporate at room temperature and are highly flammable. Infact, they are categorized as Class I Flammable Liquid Substances. Due to their growing need by both adults and children, it is therefore, pertinent to exercise utmost caution in preventing any form of hazard. Improper handling, usage, storage and disposal could pose immediate danger to our individual and collective health.
Safety precautions should therefore include; Storage of all alcohol-based hand sanitizers and dispensers/refills away from high temperatures, all heat and ignition sources to prevent the possibility of fire outbreak and in the event of spillage, they must be cleaned up immediately with water. Also, some alcohol-based hand sanitizers are pleasantly colored and have attractive fragrance consequently, children in schools and at home should be properly supervised by an adult at all times when using them to prevent accidental ingestion which could result in alcohol poisoning if not attended to promptly. In addition to this, care should be taken to prevent contact with the eyes.
Provided alcohol-based hand sanitizers are handled, used, stored and properly disposed of as directed for all and sundry, their potential benefits particularly against the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) will surely outweigh the risk of any hazard.
About the author: By Akinmutola Abayomi, Clinical Pharmacist, Nigeria.