Coronavirus: Does hand sanitiser actually kill the virus? Dr Hilary issues stark warning

Coronavirus: Does hand sanitiser actually kill the virus? Dr Hilary issues stark warning


Coronavirus cases are still on the rise globally, leading to the banning of mass gatherings and more than 3,100 deaths. Experts have urged people to practice good hygiene to stop further spread of the virus, which involves regular and thorough hand washing. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with at least 60 percent alcohol if soap and water isn’t readily available, but with fears over the impact of the virus rising, many stores have seen hand sanitiser sell out.


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But how effective actually is sanitiser at killing the virus? Dr Hilary Jones took to ITV’s Lorraine to urge people hand washing it better than sanitising.

He said: “People right now need to go about their normal lives, but taking those reasonable precautions.

“Hand washing is better than sanitising because you’re washing the virus off.

“You’re just putting the gel on to try kill the virus – it’s already on your hands.”

When it comes to hand washing, the NHS says you should wash your hands for the amount of time it takes to sing ‘Happy birthday’ twice.

A study published in the American Society of Microbiology in 2019 revealed using running water and soap to wash your hands if more effective than using hand sanitiser when it hasn’t properly been rubbed in.

Public Health England says if hand sanitiser is used it needs to contain at least 60 percent alcohol content – most contain 60 to 95 percent.

But a spokesperson for chemical products company Kao Corporation suggested overusing hand sandier may increase your risk of infection.

Speaking to Kyodo News, they said excessively using alcohol-based sanitisers could remove “normal bacteria flora” that coat the skin and fend off pathogens.

“Of course, it is necessary to wash hands and use alcohol-based hand sanitisers in order to reduce transmission of the new virus, but overdoing anything is not good,” the spokesperson added.”

One of the primary risks of using hand sanitisers is it can strip skin of oil and water, which can result in rough hands.

The spokesperson explained: “Dry and damaged skin could become a hotbed of disease bacteria and also increase the risk of viruses entering the body through cuts in the skin.”


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Many countries have seen the banning of mass public gatherings as a precaution.

With 51 cases now confirmed in the UK, should we now be doing the same?

Dr Hilary said: “The government is taking a very reasonable stance. Currently, if we start banning mass gatherings at this point, when we’ve only got 51 cases confirmed in the UK, we are going to isolate people for a very long period of time.

“It becomes counter productive really, so if you’re isolating them now, and then you’re reintroducing the mass gatherings later, when we have more of the virus in the community, it doesn’t really make sense.

“So at the moment, when we’ve only got a few cases, let’s see how it goes, is the thinking, and maybe relook at it in a month’s time depending on how many cases we have out there in the public at large.

“Right now, to ban everything would be economically disastrous and it would be probably medically unnecessary, and I go along with that.”

Symptoms of coronavirus

The main symptoms to look out for are:

  • A cough
  • A high temperature
  • A shortness of breath

NHS 111 now has an online service you can use to tell if you need medial help, also offering advice on what to do.

You should use the service if:

  • You think you might have coronavirus
  • In the last 14 days you’ve been to a country or area with a high risk of coronavirus – see our coronavirus advice for travellers
  • You’ve been in close contact with someone with coronavirus

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