Scrub or Sanitize? Why not Both?


Throughout the COVID-19 Pandemic, we have learned the importance of habitual hand washing and sanitizing as you go about your day. This is crucial to stop the spread of harmful viruses, bacteria and pathogens. While this may seem like a simple thing to do, is it crucial to reduce the risk of you and the people around you from getting sick. As Humans, we use our hands for everything. All day long we are interacting with the world and our hands are carrying around all the germs that have decided to tag along for the ride. While bacteria and viruses can spread in multiple ways, hand hygiene is a simple and effective way to prevent infections from spreading and keeping your friends and family healthy. 


So when exactly should you be washing your hands? This question has plagued parents and children for eons; however, a general rule of thumb is you should be washing your hands before handling anything that is going to go into your body. Washing your hands is good to do before and after eating food, as well as, before any food preparation, after every bathroom visit, and most importantly, before taking care of child (like changing diapers)


Since the rise of COVID-19 people have been sanitizing their hands almost religiously and some might say excessively. As a result you may wonder, what is the difference between washing your hands or sanitizing? Is one more effective than the other and should we be doing both? Both washing your hands regularly and using hand sanitizer are good habits to get into, however the main difference in the efficacy between washing and sanitizing is that sanitizing only works if your hands are already clean. What I mean by this is that hands that are already covered in a layer of dirt, grime or oil will not be able to sanitize properly. Due to that layer blocking the sanitizer from properly coating your hand it will not be able to clean anything, however for hands that aren't covered in dirt using hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol works just as well if not better than washing your hands. 


With all this attention to hygiene you may also be wondering, is it possible to wash or sanitize your hands too much? The answer to this question is a simple “yes.” Washing your skin too much may result in it breaking down and developing an infection. When washing your hands often it is important to also use lotion or moisturizer regularly so your skin does not break down or dry out. When using hand sanitizer there is no such thing as too much. Although the myth surrounding hand sanitizer is that it aids in the creation of super germs, this could not be further from the truth. There is much confusion and conflation between antiseptics, such as hand sanitizer, and antibiotics. It is true that over time viruses can mutate and develop resistances to antibiotics, contrarily bacteria does not become resistant to antiseptics. So have no fear and sanitize away. Developing good hand hygiene habits are a simple and effective way to keep yourself and the people around you healthy and safe.   



How to Wash Your Hands | Cedars-Sinai      

Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Ben-Aderet | Cedars-Sinai

Scrub and Sanitize: Why Washing Your Hands Matters | Cedars-Sinai


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