It’s nearly August, and for many parents around the country that means one thing: It’s time to make sure your kids are ready to go back to school. (Apologies to the kids who aren’t ready for summer to be over yet)
So, what does back to school mean? Of course it means new clothes and school supplies, but it also means something less pleasant than all of that… New germs. That’s right. When kids go back to school, they go back to interacting with all the germs that thrive in a school environment. Illness is actually responsible for 144 million lost school days each year. The last thing you want is to send your child back to school, only for them to get sick and immediately have to miss time. Germs may be an unfortunate reality of the back to school season, but there are simple steps you can take to help protect your children from illnesses that will cause them to miss school time.
One of the simplest ways to combat infection is the use of hand sanitizers. Send your kids to school with a small dispenser and encourage them to use some before lunch and periodically throughout the day. Hand sanitation is the easiest and most effective way to combat infection from germs.
“But, PJP, I’ve heard that alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be harmful. Are you sure I should send my kids to school with it?”
Great question, hypothetical concerned parent. Actually, a lot of the negative things you’ve heard about alcohol-based hand sanitizers like Purell aren’t actually true. In fact, why don’t we go ahead and dispel some of those myths right now…
1) All Germs are the Same
The word “germ” has a very negative connotation to it in our culture, but the truth is that there are actually some germs that are regular inhabitants of our skin, and are actually not putting you at risk of infection. These germs aren’t the ones responsible for getting us sick. Those germs are called “transient germs” and we pick those up from objects we touch. Transient germs are spread by sick people touching something and then a healthy person also touching it. This is how most illnesses are spread, and not through the air as many people believe.
2) Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizer Kills All the Good Germs on Our Hands
“But PJP, if alcohol-based hand Sanitizers like Purell kill 99.99% of germs, wouldn’t that mean it also killed all the good germs on our hands too?”
Again, very astute of you, hypothetical concerned parent, but no. Products like Purell kill 99.99% of the germs on the surface of your hands, and most of the “good” germs remain under your skin and are not harmed. Those that are harmed are quickly re-populated by the germs that remain in the layers of skin.
3) Using Hand Sanitizer Creates Antibiotic Resistance or Supergerms
There has been a lot of confusion and concern about antibacterial products and antibiotics these days. However, hand sanitizer does not work the same way as antibacterial soap or antibiotics. When hand sanitizer comes in contact with viruses or bacteria it kills it instantly by destroying the cell wall. It then evaporates quickly making it impossible for the germs to adapt and become resistant to it. The simple fact is that hand sanitizer does not cause Antibiotic Resistance or create Supergerms.
4) Alcohol-Based and Non-Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers Are the Same
This should seem obvious, but non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers are different from alcohol-based ones. More importantly, alcohol-based sanitizers are much more affective. Experts like Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, and Health Canada recommend alcohol-based hand sanitizers over any other type of hand sanitizer.
5) Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers Contain Triclosan
Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent that is found in many consumer products, including soaps. Triclosan’s is thought by many to be less than effective as an antimicrobial agent and there are many concerns that it can cause bacterial resistance. It is worth noting, however, that these beliefs are still controversial, and not widely accepted by the scientific community as a whole. All that being said, Triclosan is actually not present in alcohol-based hand sanitizers like Purell. If you have any doubts, simply check the ingredients on the back of the bottle.
6) Purell Hand Sanitizer Dries Out My Hands
Many people are afraid to use hand sanitizers frequently because they are afraid the alcohol will dry out the skin on their hands, but in the case of products like Purell, this simply isn’t true. Purell’s formula actually contains natural moisturizers and is proven to maintain skin’s natural condition. There are studies that actually show that Purell can be gentler on your hands than washing them with soap and water because Purell doesn’t strip away your hand’s natural lipids.