Here's What To Know About Hand Sanitizer, From An MD

mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant By Sarah Regan
mindbodygreen Editorial Assistant

Sarah Regan is a writer, registered yoga instructor, and Editorial Assistant at mindbodygreen. She received her bachelor's in broadcasting and mass communication from SUNY Oswego, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Hand with Hand Sanitizer

Image by Tatjana Zlatkovic / Stocksy

As coronavirus, or COVID-19, makes its rounds internationally, the CDC announced today that 164 people have now been infected with the virus here in the United States. And as worries rise, stores are running out of things like bulk foods and hand sanitizer as folks prepare for the worst.

Which had us wondering, does hand sanitizer even have a place in the coronavirus conversation?

So we reached out to Amy Shah, M.D., an integrative medicine doctor, to get her take on the topic. And while she'll always recommend actual hand-washing first, there are some circumstances Shah does recommend a little sanitizer.

5 tips for proper hand sanitizer usage:
  1. If you work in a hospital setting, a closed environment, or a place where you're in contact with lots of people, Shah says it does make sense to use hand sanitizers in addition to hand-washing—especially during flu season.
  2. It's also good to have on hand (literally), when germy moments arise without a sink in sight, say, in the car or on public transport.
  3. As far as what to look for, "you have to get something with at least 60% alcohol," she says.
  4. Be sure to moisturize as hand sanitizer can be "quite harsh and drying on the hands, so that's why a lot of brands or DIY recipes have moisturizers so you don't end up with cracked hands, which will, of course, make the hand sanitizer feel too harsh, especially if your hands were already dry or you have eczema, for example."
  5. If you do make your own, be sure to keep Shah's advice in mind: "Be very careful and don't use it as your primary source of preventing the virus."

We can't say it enough: Don't bail on hand-washing. "Washing your hands is the best way to both prevent spread and prevent yourself from getting sick," Shah says. Also, avoid touching your face (especially your eyes, nose, and mouth).

So while hand-washing is still the gold standard, hand sanitizer is still nice to have when the need arises. Until scientists figure out how to treat coronavirus, check out some of our M.D.-approved tips for keeping your immune system strong and how to keep your reusable cups and bottles germ-free.

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