Archive for May 1st, 2009

H1N1 flu – Do hand sanitizers and face masks work?

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Does it rub the lotion on its skin or should it place the lotion in the basket?

I was heading out to pick up some antibacterial hand sanitizers and hand wipes at Target this morning, thinking something was better than nothing.  Then my scientist husband told me those things weren’t preventative; in fact, they don’t do much to kill the H1N1 flu.

While most sicknesses (and many normal flu strains) are from bacteria, the H1N1 (human/swine/avian) strain is from a new mutated virus. Quoting husband, “hand sanitizers don’t hurt the flu, it laughs at them.”  I asked him how he knows it laughs, I mean, it could be a giggle, or a sarcastic rolling of eyes. Anyway, he ignores me and goes on to explain.

Washing hands with water and soap would be the most effective in getting rid of the H1N1 flu.  By the way, let’s all say H1N1 and not Swine flu, and protect all the innocent pigs getting slaughtered.  My husband tried to explain why washing with water was more effective.  Basically, a water molecule is so big it can encapsulate a tiny little virus particle and wash it down the sink.  Something like that. 

Hand sanitizers just rub the virus around in your hands, and the alcohol base in the sanitizer might kill some of it.  But it still isn’t as effective as soap and water.  The antibacterial stuff will still help in killing other things that might make you sick. So it’s still a good idea to carry a little bottle of it after touching door handles, grocery carts, etc. because you wouldn’t want to catch something else on top of the flu.

Hand sanitizers shouldn’t be the sole preventative measure to take; I can picture people using hand sanitizers 20x a day and never wash their hands with water.

Wash your hands with water after you get home.

And then there’s the question about face masks. Do face masks prevent infection? Face masks being sold are so porous that they wouldn’t do a good job in shielding your nose/mouth from tiny virus particles.  However, their job is in preventing large droplets being transmitted from sneezing or coughing. So if you are in a very crowded area, wearing a face mask would be helpful, but it wouldn’t shield you from breathing in particles.

So go home and wash your hands after you take off your face mask!

Below are two sites with helpful tips for preventative measures:

http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/swineflu_you.htm

http://www.who.int/csr/disease/swineflu/faq_prevention/en/index.html

This site talks about a non-alcohol based hand sanitizer that was proven effective:

http://www.scientificblogging.com/news_articles/hand_sanitizers_proven_be_effective_against_h1n1_influenza_swine_flu_virus

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