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It’s Flu Season and We DON’T Hand Sanitize

beth October 17, 2012

Prior to Miss Moo’s birth, I thoroughly stocked our then townhouse with hand sanitizer. She was born during the H1N1 flu season and the hospital attached to our birth center encouraged us to hand sanitize and had managed to terrify us about that strain of flu beyond belief. As the flu season carried on and no one we knew got sick, I began to relax about the plastic bottles stationed around the house and pondered exactly what slathering my hands with their contents was doing to us.

So, what’s in the stuff anyway?

Most hand sanitizers are essentially hand soap diluted in a large amount of alcohol – somewhere between 60 and 90 percent depending on the brand and size of the bottle. An alcohol content that large can lead to serious health hazards, particularly for children; levels that high can easily cause alcohol poisoning. Small children are at greater risk due to their size and propensity to place toys and their hands in their mouths.

Having the bottles accessible to children also pose threats. Many are brightly colored and scented to please the user and in turn, interested little hands grab them to use in play. Using hand sanitizers frequently with children may mean they have no fear of it as a chemical and feel they can responsibly use it in correct amounts. Amounts over the size of a pea could lead to alcohol poisoning in young children. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can include nausea, dizziness, and headaches. Alcohol poisoning is a serious condition that must be treated to immediately to avoid long-term health effects.

There’s More?

Many hand sanitizers also contain the chemical Triclosan. Triclosan is very concerning because it has been found in some studies to disrupt the function of the endocrine system. The endocrine system is the system of glands in the body that secrete hormones into the bloodstream to regulate the body. Studies have been so conclusive, in fact, that the FDA decided to take a closer look at the lasting effects on this chemical and our health. Triclosan has also been found in breast milk, umbilical cord blood, and is classified by the EPA as a pesticide, but is still cleared for use in hand sanitizers.

Are There Any Other Dangers?

  • Fire Hazards – Due to the high alcohol content, hand sanitizers are extremely flammable.
  • Overuse – Many people have come to rely on the use of hand sanitizers for convenience and simplicity and skip washing hands altogether. Nothing can replace washing your hands.
  • Antibiotic-resistant bacteria – Although debated, many health professionals feel that the overuse of hand sanitizers has led to antibiotic-resistant bacteria.  Studies have yielded results indicating that overuse of hand sanitizers in care facilities has lead to high levels of Norovirus outbreaks.

So What CAN I Use to Hand Sanitize?

It’s imperative to remember that NOTHING can replace washing your hands with soap. However, if you are in a position where you can’t find a sink and soap, you can do a few things to clean things up without using hand sanitizers.

Carry a “wash” with you. – Keep a small spray bottle with a water/soap solution in your bag, diaper bag, or backpack with a dry washcloth. Spritz your hands, rub them together, and then dry them off.

Cloth Wipes. – We keep a box of cloth wipes in our house at all times that can easily be thrown in the van. I use standard “infant” washcloths with a mixture of 1T baby wash, 1T olive oil, 1/2T white vinegar(helps prevent yeast/rash), and 1C hot water poured over them. These work as a great clean up wipe for any mess or hands and can be used just as easily as a little bottle of sanitizer.

A simple “sanitizer” spray. – 1 cup pure aloe vera gel, 2 tsp witch hazel, 4 drops tea tree oil, 4 drops peppermint oil.

Find What Works For You

You may find that a carrying wipes or a spritzer may seem cumbersome at first, so experiment and see what works. You may find that small spray bottles in your car or 3-4 washcloths stored in a wet bag help out in a pinch. Don”t hesitate to do your own research and try new things. Just be informed and care for yourself and your family during flu season.

Do you use hand sanitizer? What tricks do you have to staying clean on the go?

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  1. This is interesting to me. As a nurse, we are actually taught that the alcohol-based sanitizers clean BETTER than normal washing. Not that I don’t believe you, I would just be interested in where you learned this. I am starting to become more skeptical about these things. I am looking for something I can easily carry with me at work, since they only provide alcohol-based sanitizers and antibacterial soap. However, I also want to make sure that I’m not carrying diseases and harmful bacteria around and spreading it to other patients by using a natural/homemade version. Any help would be appreciated. 🙂

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  2. We use grain alcohol in a spray bottle. (buy everclear at the ABC store). Its not cheap and its still alcohol but at least its not rubbing alcohol which is carcinogenic and theres no other additives. (unless you want to add essential oils to make it smell nice. 😉
    Vinegar is supposed to be just as effective as bleach so I suppose you could use that too, you’d just smell like a salad til it dries.

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  3. I wholeheartedly agree that hand sanitizer is horrid stuff. We use an essential oil blend from doTERRA called On Guard. Its all natural and very effective. Safe for wee ones too.
    http://www.mydoterra.com/meadowlark

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  4. “Antibiotic-resistant bacteria – Although debated, studies have results indicating that overuse of hand santizers in care facilities have lead to high levels of virus outbreaks.” Can you post the link for hand sanitizers leading to antibiotic resistant virus outbreaks? I assume you mean hand sanitizing products containing triclosan or other antibacterials and leading to high levels of antibiotic-resitsant BACTERIA outbreaks? Antibiotics don’t treat viruses so I don’t see the connection.

    I don’t use anything containing triclosan, and I don’t like alcohol sanitizers because they dry my hands and most leave residue (lick your finger while eating, eww). I like CleanWell’s thyme oil based sanitizers for our family.

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  5. I love your ideas!

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  6. In my opinion, nothing replaces handwashing. I use Dr. Bronners diluted in foamind dispensers. I would say out of all the people I work with and my kids school mates, we are the healthiest. Very few colds and no flu issues at all. We also eat a pretty good diet that’s plant based with organic produce and meat.

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  7. Great article, I totally agree with you on no-hand sanitizer policy. We never use it, I have 4 kids and so far we rarely have had colds. Hand washing is pretty simple and pretty efficient. I’m looking forward using your recipe for simple “sanitizer” spray.

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  8. When my first daughter was born, the midwife “cleaned” her hand with the Sanitize crap and then put her finger in my newborns mouth! I nearly cut her head off! IDIOT!

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  9. It’s so refreshing to hear this viewpoint! I have a homemade hand sanitizer that I’ve made that’s very similar to yours, but everyone (including my husband) think I’m crazy and something homemade couldn’t work. So, I’ve purchased a few more natural options from my local health food store and Vitacost. However, I think I’m going to make up a fresh recipe, using your ingredients! It will certainly save us some $$$, as we already have all the ingredients on hand!

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  10. and triclosan isnt only in the hand sanitizers… its embedded into new bedding – like mattresses, pillows, quilts – its called “antimicrobial embedding”. Its embedded in upholstery and carpets and the vast majority of dishcloths like chux etc. Its also what is used in most factories that process food – to clean the machines after each use. So you are pretty much getting triclosan at every turn. I bet if they tested your drinking water it would be in that too!

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  11. How many infant washcloths do you use in your recipe for the wipes?

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  12. Not sure how to convey this to my daughter’s daycare. I also saw an episode of one of those Dr. dramas can’t remember which one, but a woman was in police custody because her baby showed up in the ER with high levels of alcohol poisoning. It turned out to be the antibac wipes she was using on the baby’s skin. I was sold on not using that stuff.

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  13. frustrating to me that information like this isn’t more widely known – I had no idea this could ever pose an issue. Thanks for the insight!

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  14. […] MAH – It’s Flu Season And We DON’T Hand Sanitize […]

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  15. […] It’s Flu Season and We DON’T Hand Sanitize | Modern Alternative Health […]

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  16. When I was in school, there was no such thing as hand sanitizer. And I was rarely sick as a child, despite being a very premature, sickly baby. Now, all the kids I know (family and through church) miss a ton of school with repeat cases of strep and flu each season. I wonder how much of it is that we are over-sanitized and our bodies can no longer fight off diseases.

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  17. Looove this!

    I have a friend, that while he was going through nurses training, told me that there is actually a statistic that says that hand sanitizer is only good for 3 uses and then you HAVE to wash your hands with warm/hot soap (not antibacterial) and water. For example, you have germs on your hand, you use hand sanitizer, it forms a layer and traps the germs, you use hand sanitizer again, it traps the germs forming a second layer of trapped germs, then you can do it once more. So, you have 3 layers of trapped germs on your hands. After that the hand sanitizer begins to break down and can no longer contain or trap the germs. You have to wash your hands and then start over.

    We do not use hand sanitizer and haven’t for years. I buy small plastic cobalt blue spray bottles from Whole Foods 2 ounces and make my own. I use lemon witch hazel with aloe vera in it, essential oils and grapefruit seed extract. I used to use tea tree oil but was scared when I read that tea tree oil can mess with a childs endocrine system (especially boys) , so I pulled that out of the recipe and use essential oils that are already naturally antiseptic. I keep it in my purse and we love it!

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  18. […] Hand spritzer – A little while back I wrote a post on the dangers of hand sanitizers. There’s a simple recipe there for a hand spray – a mixture of  1 cup pure aloe vera […]

    Reply

  19. […] MAH – It’s Flu Season And We DON’T Hand Sanitize […]

    Reply

  20. […] Hand spritzer – A little while back I wrote a post on the dangers of hand sanitizers. There”s a simple recipe there for a hand spray – a mixture of  1 cup pure aloe vera […]

    Reply

  21. […] It’s Flu Season and We DON’T Hand Sanitize | Modern Alternative Health […]

    Reply

  22. […] a list of alternatives to hand sanitizers, which have plenty of toxins and the potential to create […]

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  23. Just love soap and lots of water,,,,,,We have farm pets, chicken poop on my hands, soap and water gone…….chicken poop on my hands, hand sanitizer, chicken poop still on my hands, maybe cleaner lol nothing can replace good ol soap n water.

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  24. […] A lot of parents carry alcohol-based hand sanitizers around with them, to clean their kids’ hands when they can’t get to a sink.  Do not do this.  The active ingredients in hand sanitizers don’t kill the serious germs (especially if they’re not used properly, which many kids don’t), but they do kill the good gut flora that your kids need to fight off illnesses.  Plus, since they only kill “99.9%” of germs, that 0.1% can become resistant and grow stronger, possibly making people sicker.  (See why else they’re dangerous.) […]

    Reply

  25. […] Hand spritzer – A little while back I wrote a post on the dangers of hand sanitizers. There’s a simple recipe there for a hand spray – a mixture of  1 cup pure aloe vera […]

    Reply

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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