There’s been a long standing debate over the past two decades about hand cleanliness. At the forefront of this debate is the use of hand sanitizer and its effectiveness.
For Type 1 Diabetics, hand cleanliness is very important. It’s important in order to obtain proper blood sugar results when testing (having residual glucose on your fingers WILL affect your readings) and it also helps to prevent infection and other issues from constantly pricking your fingers.
In recent years, you’d be hard pressed to walk into a public access building or government building without seeing bottles of hand sanitizer EVERYWHERE! So, does using hand sanitizer as an alternative work? Yes and No. And here’s why.
According to Kelly Reynolds, Associate Professor of Environmental Health at the University of Arizona, “you’ll want a hand sanitizer that’s at least 62-70% ethyl alcohol.” Reynolds goes on to explain that you want a hand sanitizer that reduces about 99.99% of the germs on your hands as this is the level required to prevent illness.
You’ll notice I keep saying hand “sanitizer” as opposed to hand “gel”. There are a lot of different formats: gel, foams and otherwise. And the takeaway is that hand sanitizer doesn’t kill everything. Some bacteria and viruses don’t get broken down by hand sanitizer.
Ultimately, washing your hands with hot, soapy water is still the best option. Especially since hand sanitizer won’t help if your hands are physically dirty. All you’re doing is caking sanitizer on top of the grime; the hand sanitizer won’t eliminate the grime.
But even when washing your hands, there are steps to follow. Make sure to get your hands all wet and lather up properly. The temperature of the water really doesn’t matter, as the soap is what removes dirt. Once you’ve scrubbed all over the hands for at least 20 seconds, rinse them under clean water then dry them properly.
People often forget that drying the hands is an important part of cleanliness. If your hands stay wet, you’ll likely pick up plenty of bacteria. And if you air dry, for the love of all that’s good and holy, don’t use a hot-air dryer in a public restroom. Studies have shown that those devices tend to blow more bacteria on your hands than anything else. After all, if you can smell “odours” in a public restroom, it means there are particles floating around and that air dryer will blow all over your hands.
Hand sanitizer is an excellent alternative IF you don’t have soap and water available. If you have the choice between the two, take the time to wash your hands. There’s this thing about hand sanitizer killing the good bacteria on your hands. Although studies have shown that this is true, there is no evidence to support that this affects your overall health. But actual hand washing is the better alternative.
Maintaining proper hand cleanliness is quite important, as persons with Type 1 Diabetes are more susceptible to a weakened immune system defences. Wash your hands often, and not only when testing your blood glucose. Not only will it help to maintain your own health, but it will help to prevent the propagation of germs to others as well. ☯