The distinction between soap/water and alcohol-based hand rub

The existence of a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) that causes the disease COVID-19 will have focused attention on preventing the virus from spreading between people. The virus spreads primarily through two routes. Inhaling in respiratory secretions from a cough or sneeze, or touching a surface contaminated with respiratory droplets but then touching the eyes, nose, or mouth, accumulating the viral infection on our mucosal membranes, and any or both of these can help spread the virus. 

To prevent virus transmission from our hands to our mucous membranes, we must either remove the virus (with soap and water) or kill the virus (ABHR – alcohol based hand rub).

ABHR should only be used on visibly clean hands: any indication of soiling necessitates hand washing. ABHR even kills microorganisms on our palms (after at least 20 seconds of exposure), it does not remove anything, and it involves friction to all areas of skin or the nails and hands to enhance the effects of the alcohol.

The effectiveness of hand washing to remove viruses as well as other microorganisms stems from the entire process, which includes the application of soap or water and or friction. The soap is present to dissolve the oils on our skin and to lift and remove ‘soil’ (dead skin debris, dirt, bacteria, viruses, and also oils). Water enables the soap’s action by moistening the product and thereafter rinsing the product (as well as soil) from our palms to a drain. Friction is indeed a necessary element of washing hands, and it refers to the entire rubbing and meticulous rinsing process, which must last at least twenty seconds. To eliminate the soil load, all skin surfaces on the palms, nails, wrists, and cuticles must be rubbed.

Using a paper towel to dry also improves the efficiency of the process. It should be noted that removing the skin’s natural oils can cause skin dryness; therefore, if regular hand washing is anticipated, a moisturizing or reconditioning lotion or hand cream is supposed to be applied after every wash to help safeguard the skin. Hand washing can cause skin damage that can lead to poor washing of hands. The lotion keeps the skin healthy and makes it possible for effective hand washing.

Hand sanitizer with alcohol (60-95% ethanol): Rub product into palms to conceal all surface areas unless hands feel dry. This should only take approximately 20 seconds.

Soap and water, on the other hand: Wet hands first, then apply the recommended amount of product to hands and vigorously rub hands together for at least fifteen seconds, encompassing all areas of the fingers and hands. Rinse palms with water and dry with disposable towels; use a napkin to switch off the faucet. Resist using hot water to avoid skin drying.

According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol hand rub is among the most efficient products for reducing the number of germs on healthcare providers’ hands and have become the predominant mode for sanitizing hands in most clinical circumstances. When the hands are visibly dirty, before actually eating, or after using the restroom, water and soap should be used.

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