Alcohol-based sanitizers safest option to clean hands, health expert says

Anne-Marie Kommers - Print  | 

Despite recent fears of antibiotic resistance and superbugs, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are still considered the safest way to clean your hands, according to The Washington Post.

Superbugs develop through the systemic overuse of antibiotics, not topical hand sanitizers, said Elaine Larson, PhD, RN, an epidemiology professor at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and School of Nursing in New York City. Hand sanitizer only kills foreign organisms, not normal skin bacteria, and does not compromise the body's immune system, Dr. Larson said.

A 2018 paper found that the bacteria Enterococcus faecium is developing a tolerance to alcohol-based hand sanitizers in hospitals, which raises questions about hospitals' regular use of antiseptics. In addition, patients with gastrointestinal issues must use soap and water to wash their hands, since hand sanitizers do not kill spores from bacteria such as Clostridium difficile.

Still, Dr. Larson said that people should continue using antiseptics. "What we know right now is that alcohol hand sanitizers are the fastest and best," she told The Washington Post.

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