Regularly using hand sanitisers to combat coronavirus has caused some to worry that it could damage their skin.
In the UK, there are now 85 cases of coronavirus strain Covid-19, and the government has released its contingency plans for how to combat the virus.
Across the world, more than 93,000 people have contracted the disease, and 3,200 have died.
While NHS advice about proper hand washing technique has been widely shared, many people are also using alcohol-based hand sanitiser products.
Health chiefs have made it clear that the most effective way to prevent infection is to wash your hands with soap. The soap is able to break down the outer protective layer of the virus, allowing it to be destroyed.
But NHS advice also says that, if running water or soap are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitisers are a workable temporary alternative. For the gel to be effective, you need to make sure that it is 60 per cent alcohol, or higher, but most big brand sanitisers meet this requirement.
‘Drying nature of alcohol’
Some people are concerned that, with such a high alcohol content, hand sanitisers could dry out users’ skin, leaving them hard and painfully chapped.
Advice issued to NHS medical staff - who can use hand sanitisers dozens of times each day - says, “The majority of alcohol-based hand antiseptics contain either isopropanol, ethanol, n-propanol, or a combination of two of these products.
“Because of the drying nature of alcohol, glycerol and skin softening agents are also added to the solution.”
So, while excessive use of hand sanitisers could lead to some drying effects, it is unlikely to negatively impact most people using the gels as a temporary antiseptic.
When you should not use hand sanitisers
The NHS advice is also clear about when hand sanitisers are not effective.
“Hand sanitizers are not appropriate for use when hands are visibly dirty or contaminated,” it says.
To be safe from the risk of infection, dirty hands need to be properly cleaned with soap and running water.
Coronavirus: the facts
What is coronavirus?COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.
What caused coronavirus?The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.
How is it spread?As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.
What are the symptoms?The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.
What precautions can be taken?Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.
Should I avoid public places?Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.
What should I do if I feel unwell?Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.
When to call NHS 111NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.
Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS