Can Hand Sanitizers or Hand Washing Kill Flu?

Hand Sanitizers vs. Hand Wash

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 people have become more cautious of hygiene practices and taking precautions against every type of diseases which is a very good sign. According to the reports issued by different platforms it is seen that the consumption of hand wash and soaps has increased by manifolds globally. People are now very thoughtful about their health and are moving towards adopting practices which keep them safe from exposure to viruses and other disease-causing microbes. For this purpose, doctors have advised the people to wash their hands many times a day and specially before eating anything or serving something to others. For the purpose of keeping our hands safe from viruses, sanitizers and hand washes come to our rescue. Hand sanitizers have a reputation of killing the viruses very effectively but that too has some limitations. That’s why it is recommended to get advice from a doctor about it too. The question is whether hand sanitizers and hand washing kill the flu virus so let us have a look at the mechanism of both turn by turn. Let’s start with the hand wash.

Hand Wash

If we have a look at the chemical makeup of the structure of viruses, we can see that they have a lipid bilayer outside which has two ends, head and tail. Head is hydrophilic and the tail is repellant to water. When exposed to water this layer surrounds the virus. When we are using soaps or hand washes, there are millions of amphiphiles in each drop of it which are similar in structure to the lipid layer covering the virus and it breaks the strong layer thus invading it and the internal proteins and RNA of the virus is then surrounded by these amphiphiles which are then washed away from the hand by water. So, hand wash or soaps are very effective for fighting the flu virus. The problem is that soaps are not some magic weapon which would kill the viruses at first contact. People are seen to use water immediately after getting the hands rinsed with soaps for a few seconds which is not a very helpful practice. When we are washing hands, we must make sure that we rinse our hands with soap for the least of 30 seconds and then use water to remove the soap from our hands which ultimately takes the viruses, other microbes and even dust particles from our skin. It is a very healthy practice to wash your hands many times a day because handwashing kills the flu and keep you protected against infections.

Hand Sanitizers

Another option in this fight against the viruses especially flu virus are hand sanitizers. In case of covid-19 and many other viruses like rhinoviruses they are seen to be much more efficient and effective but when it comes to fighting the flu virus, hand wash takes a win over it. This is because of the chemical makeup of the flu virus. In researches it has been seen that when the flu virus is exposed to the hand sanitizers it still remains infectious for three to four minutes. These results were seen when studies were conducted on influenza virus and hand sanitizers were poured over the influenza virus on the hands of some volunteers and the virus did not die as sooner it was expected to die by using hand sanitizers. In further studies it is advised that the use of sanitizers should be for three to four minutes for fighting the influenza virus. If after applying the sanitizers we rub our hands for 3-4 minutes, then we can get the desired results and hand sanitizers kill the flu virus we are carrying. Sanitizers are not ineffective for fighting the flu viruses, they just take a bit longer than the soaps and hand wash so they can be used as alternative in cases when the soap and water are not accessible and hand sanitizers kill the flu virus for sure so don’t just skip the idea of using sanitizers for your aid. We still cannot conclude that the sanitizers are less efficient than soaps depending on just one study of a low alcohol concentration sanitizer. If the sanitizer had more alcohol concentration, the results would’ve been different.

How to Best Use Sanitizers and Soaps

It doesn’t matter what method you are using, all that matters is your protection against these infectious microorganisms. There is guidance of Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) for how and when to best use the sanitizers and soaps for ensuring your safety against viruses and infections. For using sanitizers following are the dos and don’ts as advised by CDC;

- While purchasing hand sanitizer make sure that it has at least 60% alcohol concentration.

- Pour the sanitizer on the palm of your hand and then rinse it all over your hands, front and back, and don’t forget to rub the spaces between fingers because these are the places where viruses get shelter.

- Try pouring the sanitizers under the nails too because finger spaces and under the nails are the favorite places for the microbes to hide.

- You are not advised to use the hand sanitizer if your hands are dirty with grease, dirt, mud etc. Because sanitizer cannot reach the viruses covered under them. It is advised to wash hands instead. And when we are using hand wash or soaps then CDC guides about its usage too.

- First step is to get your hands wet with water.

- Apply soap on your hands thoroughly as guided in case of hand sanitizers. Run it on your skin for at least 30 seconds. Make sure you wrists, nails and finger gaps were also reached by the soaps and rinsed in the right way.

- Now open the tap and wash the soap away. Congrats, viruses you were carrying on your hands are also washed away by water. Now take a towel and dry your hands.