Handwashing vs Sanitisers
Frequent, thorough handwashing has been touted as one of the best preventative measures against the COVID-19 virus. Experts concur that you should wash your hands with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds after coughing or sneezing, before eating and after you have been in a public space. However, we know that soap and water are not always readily accessible, especially when you are on the go.
In accordance with government measures to curb the spread of COVID-19, most public venues will provide people with a spray of alcohol-based hand rub before and after entering. While these rubs may not kill 100% of germs, they are nevertheless a good cautionary measure. If you are going to use a hand sanitiser, make sure to vigorously rub it into your skin until it dries completely (30 - 60 seconds should do it). It is also important to note that hand rubs are less effective if your hands are dirty or sticky. Before heading out to grocery stores, pharmacies or to seek medical care, you should always wash your hands with soap and water.
DIY Hand Rubs: Are They Safe?
You have most likely seen recipes for at-home hand sanitisers popping up all over social media since the first reported case of COVID-19 in South Africa. Most recipes advise to use a combination of three ingredients:
- Isopropyl or rubbing alcohol (99 percent alcohol volume)
- Aloe vera gel
- A combination of essential oils, usually tea tree oil, lavender essence or lemon juice to mask the smell of alcohol
Seeing that most stores will be sold out of hand sanitisers for the foreseeable future, it may seem like a good idea to make your own. However, please be advised that DIY hand rubs are not always effective against germs and bacteria, as it is difficult to correctly measure alcohol to gel ratios. The general rule of thumb is 2:1 - alcohol to gel - and a drop or two of the essential oils. It is similarly imperative that you wipe down the surface you will be using beforehand, wash your hands and any containers or equipment you will be using to mix the rub.
Another factor to consider before making your own hand sanitiser, is that you may not be able to find the ingredients you need in stores. Like brand hand rubs, rubbing alcohol and aloe vera gel have flown off shelves.
What About The Kids?
Medical professionals advise against using DIY hand rubs to sanitise children's hands. This is because the high percentage of alcohol can irritate their skin, causing a rash and sometimes bleeding. Little ones are also prone to rubbing their eyes and picking noses, which is a challenge enough in the face of COVID-19, without the added dramatics of stinging eyes. If you are desperate to keep your child's hands clean while out on a shopping run, you may consider using aloe vera baby wipes doused with a disinfectant such as Dettol. However, this may again cause dry skin and irritation.
Stick to washing your hands. But, if you must make your own hand sanitiser, follow whichever recipe you find to the tee. If you would like more insight into this topic, check out these resources:
Stay safe, keep positive and we'll see you on the other side of this!