Does hand sanitiser protect you from the coronavirus?

Masks and hand sanitiser on a tray at a health centre in Ivalo, Finland, on Jan 24, 2020.
Masks and hand sanitiser on a tray at a health centre in Ivalo, Finland, on Jan 24, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Does hand sanitiser protect you from the Wuhan virus? What about antiseptic wipes?

The best way is actually to wash your hands with soap and water, said Dr Kalisvar Marimuthu, senior infectious disease consultant at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID).

Soap and water reduces the amount of all types of germs on your hands, so frequent hand washing should keep them clean.

But if you have no access to soap and water, then hand sanitisers with at least 60 per cent alcohol content is a good alternative.

To be effective, you must use enough to cover your hands. Rub it over your hands for about 20 seconds, and leave it to dry naturally instead of wiping dry.

Sanitisers with 60-95 per cent alcohol clean much better than those with less alcohol or no alcohol in them, according to the United States Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. It too says soap and water is better, as sanitisers do not eliminate all types of germs.

As for the usefulness of antiseptic wet wipes, Dr Marimuthu said they should be used for cleaning environmental surfaces and not for hands.

A virologist from Queen Mary University of London did a study on wet wipes some years back and found that in some cases, using wet wipes actually spreads germs rather than removing them.

To be at all effective, the wipes need at least 40 per cent alcohol. Those that are drying out should be discarded.

When washing your hands with soap, here are five steps to follow:

1. Wet hands with clean running water, turn off tap and apply soap. Avoid using standing water in a basin, which may possibly be contaminated through previous use.

 
 
 

2. Lather hands by rubbing them together with the soap. It creates friction, which helps lift dirt, grease and disease-causing germs from the skin.

3. Scrub hands for at least 20 seconds. Don't know how long this is? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.

4. Rinse hands well under clean running water.

5. Dry hands using a clean towel or air dry them. Germs can be transferred more easily to and from wet hands.

Washing your hands is one of the best ways for you and your family to avoid getting ill.

Wash your hands often, especially:
• Before, during, and after preparing food;
• Before eating;
• Before and after caring for someone who is sick;
• Before and after treating a cut or wound;
• After using the toilet;
• After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet;
• After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing;
• After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste; and
• After touching garbage.

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