Frequent use of hand sanitizer can be harmful, experts say

Washing your hands with soap and water is an effective way to stop the spread of coronavirus as pictured March 6.
Liz Copan /

In times like these, it’s normal to be overly cautious about hand-washing and hand-sanitizing. While experts say frequent hand-washing is critical to preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, people should be cautious about using hand sanitizer too often. 

For many, hand sanitizer is a good alternative when soap and water aren’t around, but frequent use can cause rashes and cracking of the skin, according to a Centura Health news release. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people always prioritize hand-washing over hand sanitizer because hand-washing is more effective at reducing the amounts of all types of germs and chemicals.  People shouldn’t use hand sanitizer if they have access to soap and water, their hands are visibly dirty, they sanitized recently or they just used the restroom or changed a diaper. 

Hand sanitizer is also ineffective at removing harmful chemicals, food, fatty materials and blood. Hand-washing is the best way to clean a person’s hands if they’ve come in contact with those materials. 

According to the news release, using hand sanitizer in the middle of an outing is ineffective, as well. The best way to prevent the spread of the virus while out in public is for people to avoid touching their face. Only after they have returned from the outing should people wash their hands or use hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available. 

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