Hand washing versus Sanitizer

I’ve always hated the idea of cleaning my hands with sanitizer,  I didn’t have any science to base my thoughts on until today, and even now that I have some, the science can’t possible equal the reason I still don’t like the stuff.  I carry some in my birth bag, but it is like a charm, something to make other people feel good that I have it… but I don’t use it, and probably shouldn’t waste the valuable space in my bag with it.

I remember going to a theme park with my family and coming out of the bathroom absolutely upset, there was no soap to wash them with in water.  I reluctantly used the sanitizer offered outside the restroom and when it came time for lunch I was disgusted beyond belief that the germs that had been on my hands from the restroom were probably still sitting on my hands which were now feeding me… alive or dead the thought of those germs seriously unnerved me.  It still does.

Maybe it was the fact that I was raised very close to my grandmother who made hand washing almost a religious event before meals and at other parts of the day.  My own mother didn’t believe that we needed to wash our hands as often as my grandmother, and I’m pretty relaxed about it too, but when hands need washing, there is (in my mind) no substitute for warm water and plenty of soap.

I teach my children to wash their hands, and I never use hand sanitizer on them if I can avoid it.  My son, the few times that he has used it will break out into a rash that burns his skin.  My daughter has eczema and as a mater of principle I try keeping her away from it because heaven knows she doesn’t need her skin any more dry than it already is.  And my youngest would probably eat it so I have not done anything with him concerning sanitizer.

Then there were people saying that the use of hand sanitizer basically just transforms the germs, and doesn’t kill them.  I’m not going to speculate on that, but I do wonder about it sometimes.

Today I read an article written by Michal Klau-Stevens about hand washing in the hospitals, and I was amazed that they don’t wash more often in some hospitals.  Makes me wonder what the same survey would say about people in the fast-food industry…(that is a topic for some other blog).

After reading her article I was inspired to see the short-comings of hand-sanitizer, and found that even the cdc has something to say about hand-sanitizer.  It didn’t surprize me though, lately in doctors offices I’ve been seeing those typical hand-washing signs have changed a bit, now instead of suggesting that you either wash or sanitizer they are recommending that people wash unless they are in a situation where that is not possible.

Why?  Why don’t they stand behind hand sanitizer anymore?  According to the cdc (you can check my facts here) Sanitizers only work if they are used properly, and even then don’t kill all the germs on your hands.  The only way they can kill most of them is if you leave it on long enough to dry on its own, if you apply and then wipe your hands off on something you remove the sanitizer, and most likely the germs stay right on your hands.  Some of the germs that are not killed by hand-sanitizers include parasites and diseases that cause abdominal discomfort and diarrhea.  One of them is most commonly found to be a problem in people who seek medical help and take antibiotics… funny the doctors probably didn’t mention that to you the last time you gave your child antibiotics huh?  (different post maybe?  yeah, probably)

The CDC also states ” Many studies have found that sanitizers with an alcohol concentration between 60–95% are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers may 1) not work equally well for all classes of germs (for example, Gram-positive vs. Gram-negative bacteria, Cryptosporidium, norovirus); 2) cause germs to develop resistance to the sanitizing agent; 3) merely reduce the growth of germs rather than kill them outright, or 4) be more likely to irritate skin than alcohol-based hand sanitizers.”

Need more reason not to use the stuff? It will actually reduce your children’s ability to fight illness!  The constant, or frequent use of antibacterial hand sanitizer can actually make your child’s body feel like it is constantly fighting against illness and leave them vulnerable to disease and sickness in both their childhood and adult lives (check the references in this article).

Though there is a lot more I could say about the use of this ‘magic’ solution that is supposed to make us stay healthy, I’ll only refer to one thing… Over the last few years my family has moved a lot, and the only time we are ever sick is when we get food poisoning (not often) or move to a new state.  The first 3 months of a new environment our poor bodies all go through an adjustment period where we seem to get sick with every available illness, and then the rest of our time spent there is in pretty good health.

I allow my children to play in the dirt, I don’t bathe them every day, not even every other day, just when they are visibly dirty, and I make them actually wash their hands (while singing the entire alphabet song with soap applied to their hands), not drench them in hand sanitizers.

I love that current science is pulling us away from our goals of being germ free, there are plenty of bacteria that help us every day!  And I want to tell them all ‘welcome home’.

Have a Cherished Birth.

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