For flu and cold protection – Is hand sanitizer better than washing your hands?
Published Friday, November 1, 2019 7:12PM EDT Last Updated Saturday, November 2, 2019 11:32AM EDT
It’s well known that the best way to prevent the spread of infection is to keep your hands clean and you can do that by washing your hands with soap and water or using hand sanitizer.
So is one way better than another?
Catherine Roberts with Consumer Reports says that the best way to stay on your feet this flu season is to pay special attention to your hands.
“It’s so important to keep your hands clean. Hand washing, with soap and water is the ideal - hand sanitizer is the next best option,” Roberts said.
According to the Center for Disease Control, alcohol-based sanitizer can kill some germs, such as cold and flu viruses when used correctly, but sanitizer is not reliable against several other germs, including norovirus, the common and highly contagious stomach bug.
It may also not be as effective if your hands are visibly dirty with grime.
One recent study even found that washing your hands with water alone, without soap might do a better job of removing bacteria than hand sanitizer will, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use soap.
The best way to clean your hands is to wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
“Hand washing removes germs from your hands. Hand sanitizer can kill germs, but it doesn’t always get all of them, which makes hand washing a better bet,” Roberts said.
However, if you can’t get to a sink, use hand sanitizer with at least 60 per cent alcohol.
Be sure to use enough to cover all the surfaces of your hands and fingers, rubbing it in until it’s dry.