Hand sanitizers versus hand washing

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Reported by: Brittany Jeffers
Updated: 1/17/2013 9:14 am Published: 1/16/2013 10:10 pm

Many people reach for the convenience of hand sanitizer when soap and water isn’t available.

Health professionals say consumers need to get in the habit of checking the labels because not all hand sanitizers are created equal.

Dr. Regina Lewis with OSU Women’s Health center in Tulsa says the effectiveness of a hand sanitizer can be evaluated based on its alcohol content. The alcohol helps to kill germs and viruses that can make you sick.

“You want it to be at least 62 percent on the label,” said Dr. Lewis.

Dr. Lewis says the alcohol content can range between 60-85 percent. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend choosing products that contain at least 60 percent alcohol.

Hand sanitizers can come in a variety of forms including liquid, foam or gel but Dr. Lewis says they are equally effective in killing bacteria.

To use the product effectively doctors suggest applying the hand sanitizer into the palm of your hand. Rub your hands together, covering all of the surfaces of your hands, until they're dry.

“The whole process should take at least twenty seconds,” said Dr. Lewis.

Dr. Lewis said if you have a choice; skip the hand sanitizer and opt for the soap and water.

“Washing your hands is always the best way to go,” said Dr. Lewis, “Hand sanitizer doesn’t get off all of the dirt and grime that washing your hands will.”

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