Hand hygiene is an important response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Public Health Agency of Canada recommends washing hands with soap and water. If those aren’t available, using a hand sanitizer can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs.
Even if hand sanitizer is hard to locate, it is not recommended that people make their own product, as there’s a chance it could be ineffective or cause skin burns.
You may be tempted to buy whatever bottle you can get your hands on, but not all sanitizers are created equal. As an additional 1,500 companies are now making hand sanitizer, it’s important to know what to look for and be cautious about. Health Canada has recalled several hand sanitizers due to the potential presence of methanol, which is toxic when absorbed through skin or ingested. And as alcohol distillers have responded to the shortage by manufacturing sanitizer, be careful. There have been many reports of people drinking the product since it smells like drinking alcohol and is contained in beverage bottles.
When you’re browsing the store shelves or searching online, pay attention to product labels for the following signs of an effective hand sanitizer:
- Most importantly, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol. If possible, clean your hands first, as alcohol-based sanitizers are most effective on hands that are not visibly dirty or greasy. Even rinsing hands with water first will help the sanitizer do its job.
- Check the ingredient list for denatured alcohol, which tastes terrible compared to drinking alcohol. The taste is used to help deter unintentional or intentional ingestion. The most common calls to poison control are related to unintentional exposures in children 5 years old and younger.
- Likewise, choose fragrance-free or unscented because fragrances may be used to cover the chemical smell.
Try to steer clear of hand sanitizers that claim to help prevent COVID-19, as that hasn’t been proven yet.
When you’ve found a hand sanitizer that meets those standards, apply a dime-sized amount to dry, clean hands and rub your hands together until completely dry again.