• Can cause low blood sugar, seizures, coma, death in children
• Could contribute to antibiotic resistance
• Wash hands as you hum happy birthday twice –CDC
Washing of hands with soap and clean water for, at least, 20 seconds, is the best way for children to kill germs, including Covid-19, but in absence of soap and water, they can use hand sanitizer with, at least, 60% alcohol. While hand sanitizers can kill the human sperm and cause dry skin, ingestion of it will lead to alcohol poisoning in children, low blood sugar, seizures, coma and death. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports
edical experts across the country have called on parents to keep hand sanitisers out of children’s reach even as parents and caregivers are admonished to always supervise how children under ages five and less use their hand sanitisers.
The moral of the call, according to them, is to keep an eye on young children, or better still, keep the hand sanitiser bottles in adult clutch and squeeze a small amount into their little hands.
The experts said washing of hands with soap and clean water for, at least, 20 seconds is the best way for children to kill germs, including Covid-19, saying in absence of soap and water, they can use hand sanitizer with, at least, 60% alcohol.
They held that swallowing just a tiny amount of hand sanitiser can cause alcohol poisoning in children, stating that alcohol poisoning in children can cause low blood sugar, seizures, coma and death.
The American Academy of Pediatrics corroborated this when it urged parents to keep hand sanitisers out of children’s reach. “Don’t forget about travel-size bottles of sanitiser in purses, diaper bags, backpacks and cars,” it said.
The health experts recommended the use of hand sanitisers that are 60% to 95% alcohol to kill the virus that causes COVID-19, saying that drinking alcohol typically has 5% to 40% alcohol per serving.
Recently, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a caution, warning consumers against purchasing and use of certain nine hand sanitiser brands made in Mexico.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that these hand sanitisers contain as much as 81 per cent toxic methanol, also known as wood alcohol, which has the potential of causing blindness and death if ingested.
In its advisory, the agency said it had tested samples of two products (names withheld), and found out that they had 81 percent and 28 percent methanol, also known as wood alcohol.
“Methanol is not an acceptable ingredient for hand sanitisers and should not be used due to its toxic effects,” the agency said.
The FDA, last week, recommended that the manufacturers of these products from Mexico, remove its products from the market but the companies have not responded.
The FDA, which recommended that anyone exposed to the hand sanitizers with methanol should seek immediate treatment, said substantial methanol exposure can lead to nausea, vomiting, headaches, permanent blindness and seizures, among other harmful effects.
An emergency physician, Dr. Robert George, said methanol itself was not significantly toxic, rather, the formaldehyde and formic acid — the metabolites produced by the breakdown of methanol in the body — that could prove deadly.
Dr. George said exposure to the metabolites can lead to a condition known as ‘metabolic acidosis,’ a dangerous accumulation of acid in the bloodstream, which is toxic to the organs and tissues in the body, leading to seizures, kidney failure, blindness, low blood pressure and fatal cardiac arrhythmias.
He noted that children are most at risk if they ingest methanol, but it can also be harmful if they rub it on their skin or inhale it.
“Methanol was once manufactured by the distillation of wood. Wood alcohol was a hidden danger for unwary drinkers during Prohibition,” he added.
According to the Mob Museum, in 1926 in New York, about 750 people died after drinking wood alcohol-laced bootlegged liquor.
However, in order to reduce the risk of injury from children drinking hand sanitizers, Dr. Ben Egwuowu, said the producers of hand sanitisers, locally or abroad, should add ingredients to make the sanitisers taste bitter.
He said this important step would help to prevent children from ingesting the product, saying that the young kids might be drawn to more colorful and fragrant hand sanitisers.
More so, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said between years 2011 and 2015, there were almost 85,000 calls to poison-control centers about the potential consumption of hand sanitiser among minors.
It explained that, just like other products containing alcohol — such as mouthwash and facial toner — hand sanitiser poses a risk to children if used improperly.
It noted that ingesting hand sanitiser could also make a child inebriated, possibly causing a decrease in heart rate and labored breathing.
Sunday Telegraph gathered that with some shortages of hand sanitisers during the COVID-19 crisis, people started making their own hand sanitiser. But if made incorrectly, hand sanitiser may not work and might result in skin burn.
Also, it was learnt that during the shortage, hand sanitisers were mass-produced by distilleries and other facilities. Some liquor distilleries have done their part for the greater good. This has resulted in a number of fake and substandard sanitisers in circulation and its attendant effect.
A trained dermatologist, Willie Oviesu said frequently washing with soap and water and over-using hand sanitising products could make one’s hands feel dry, cracked, and uncomfortable.
She said the reason remains that the active ingredient (alcohol) strips the barrier of essential proteins and lipids, resulting in irritation.
“While being vigilant about staying clean and germ-free is, indeed, very important, so is keeping your skin healthy and smooth. That is why you will want to have moisturiser at the ready after using hand sanitiser,” she said.
She noted that some hand sanitisers are made with ingredients meant to prevent the unpleasant side effect of dry skin, saying that glycerol, for example, can help counteract the drying properties of alcohol.
“This chemical also gives many hand sanitisers its textures and conveniences, and without this clever ingredient, hand sanitiser would be a liquid, and it would not be nearly as convenient for use on the go,” she added.
Again, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, hand sanitiser with antibacterial ingredients can contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistance bacteria.
It noted that in order to prevent creating those scary little microbes, washing your hands instead of reaching for the bottle of sanitiser should be practiced, as much as possible.
“The antibiotic-resistant bacteria can develop the ability to tolerate the drug that otherwise should be able to kill them,” it said.
Sunday Telegraph gathered that a few sanitisers are a little too good at killing bacteria and that is how it keeps us safe from a variety of illnesses. But another aspect of this is, sanitiser can affect the body’s microbiomes in a few ways, which can be bad for human being.
The CDC noted that sanitiser kills off the bacteria that are beneficial to the body, which in turn can wreak havoc in our healthy bacterial community.
“The only solution to this is that people should use hand sanitiser with caution and only when they don’t have access to soap and water,” it started.
Speaking on the effect on hand sanitisers, a professor of medicine, Dr. Philip Njemanze said hand sanitisers can affect a number of things in the body, especially the sperm formation.
He said: “The chemical components of hand sanitisers, like other insecticides, can affect the sperm formation and other hormonals. The same thing goes with all alcohol based sanitisers or cleaners.
“This is why we don’t advocate alcohol-based solutions except that there is the real need for that. This is because it has the ability of penetrating into the body. Soap is less dangerous because it can easily be washed off with water.”
He noted that sperm is extremely delicate. Like certain spermicides, hand sanitiser products contain chemicals — like isopropyl alcohol and glycerin — that can slow down or even kill those little swimming cells upon contact.
Sunday Telegraph learnt that though it is technically able to eliminate sperm, one should never ever use hand sanitiser in place of safe, approved, and effective spermicide products.
It was learnt that hand sanitiser is not an acceptable contraceptive alternative in any situation, and, in fact, using it could prove to be potentially dangerous and damaging to the outer skin of the penis and the fragile inner tissue of the vagina.
“You obviously would not use household cleaners on or in your body, so the same goes for hand sanitiser, of course,” he added.
However, hand sanitiser has numerous positive effects in combating germs and Covid-19.
Dr. Cynthia Okafor said: “We all are using hand sanitisers much more than ever before. Proper handwashing and using sanitizer whenever washing hands is not possible can save all of us from bacteria and viruses.
“When you are outside, it’s not always possible to use soap and water to wash hands. This is where we all have to rely on our alcohol-based hand sanitisers, especially during times like this when we are combating the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Using hand sanitizer reduces microbial counts and kills many harmful germs that could infect workers with the flu and other viruses. In order to keep the workplace a healthy and thriving environment, it’s critical that employers take into account the health of its employees.
“Alcohol-based hand sanitisers help to deter the spread of germs and illness-causing bacteria, particularly in busy environments like schools and offices.”
According to studies, one in five people don’t regularly wash their hands. Of those who do, 70% don’t use soap. Providing hand sanitiser in key areas (including bathrooms and kitchens) makes it more likely that people will use it to kill harmful bacteria.
A study in the American Journal of Infection Control (AJIC) found that sanitisers promote good hygiene and health, encouraging the use of hand sanitizers in schools reduced absenteeism by almost 20 per cent.
The study states that an extra precaution, many people will use paper towels to open doors when leaving bathrooms or kitchens, saying that placing hand sanitisers near exits makes it easy for people to defend themselves from germs without needing to create additional mess.
Sunday Telegraph gathered that soap combined with running water is by far the best way to eliminate germs from our hands. That’s because soap molecules, themselves, are very effective at destroying the surface membranes of some bacteria and viruses, including the novel coronavirus.
In addition, the lathering of hands and scrubbing thoroughly creates friction that helps lift and wash away dirt, grease and microbes under running water.
Soap takes a little time to work — at least 20 seconds to disinfect your hands completely. That’s about the time it takes to sing the ‘Happy Birthday’ song twice.
So, hum or sing along as you follow the CDC’s recommended handwashing steps.
Here is the recommendation: “Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap. Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Scrub all surfaces of your hands, including the palms, backs, fingers, the skin between your fingers and also under your nails.
“Rinse your hands under clean, running water that is not too hot to tolerate. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them. These steps can make all the difference in protecting you and your loved ones.”