We all know that the COVID-19 pandemic situation is the new normal that is going to be here for quite some time. To keep the disease away, we are asked to wear a mask, wash our hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use a sanitiser and maintain social distance. We all are trying to keep ourselves safe by following the mentioned health rules and are being benefited as well.
The use of hand sanitisers has increased a lot after the COVID-19 outbreak and to some extent, we are using it too much. Some of us have become obsessed with it. There are various types of hand sanitisers available in Bangladesh. Some are in gel, some as liquid and some of them are in spray form. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has prescribed the ingredients of hand sanitisers. It should be Ethyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol based but it should never contain methyl alcohol, or commonly known as methanol.
There are many side effects of using the hand sanitizer, such as ocular irritation, vomiting, conjunctivitis, oral irritation, cough, metabolic acidosis, respiratory depression and rarely hypoglycaemia. Excessive use of hand sanitisers may weaken our immunity by reducing our exposure to the commensal organism. Sanitisers cannot be used for disinfecting vegetables and fruits. Sanitisers should not be put inside vehicles as they are flammable products, they can explode due to the hot temperature inside the vehicle cabin. Hand sanitisers also increase the risk of eczema and various skin infections.
Children after using hand sanitisers can eat with their hands, even if they lick their hands it will not cause any notable harm. Using methanol in disinfectant and hand sanitisers is not acceptable and it is very injurious to health, it can even be fatal.
To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends washing hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and if soap and water are not available, alcohol-based sanitisers may be used as an alternative.
So it is important for everyone to be rational in using hand sanitisers. Use them only when necessary and sparingly to avoid the risks.
The author is a Professor of Paediatrics at Community Based Medical College, Mymensingh.