nos-trum. pronunciation: \nos'-trum\. noun. Etymology: Latin, neuter of noster our, ours.
1. a medicine of secret composition recommended by its preparer but usually without scientific proof of its effectiveness.
2. a usually questionable remedy or scheme.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

FDA Sends Warning To Some Hand Cleansers...Discussion On Hand Cleansing

Hand cleansers are better than nothing, but still don't match hand washing.

I notice that the FDA has issued warnings to several companies who make hand cleansers.  The common thread to the warning is claims of preventing strep, MRSA, avian flu, etc.  See the article at the Miami Herald Health Wire (Apr 20), for more.

Most of the hand cleansers contain alcohol as their main ingredient.  You could just pour a bottle of alcohol over your hands and get the same effect.  Alcohol has anti-bacterial activity, but it's imperfect.  A small application to the hands will work for only a short time, and will fail to kill many germs.

[Factoid:  Wonder why they use that orange stuff called povidone (Betadine) in hospitals?  Because no bacterial resistance has ever developed]

Plus, I'm not aware of any studies that show adding a moisturizer to the cleanser doesn't undermine the product's benefit.

So claims to prevent disease are...well...let's call them misrepresentations.

[Note:  Here's my vote for Best Contagion Opportunity:  the key pad at your grocery store or ATM machine.]

By contrast, good handwashing, if you cover all surfaces of the hand, acts mechanically and chemically.  The soap combines with many chemicals, and the scrubbing washes off debris, dirt, dead skin (all of which provide nutrient for germs), washes away the bacteria. 

Many of you know the old guideline:  you should scrub for as long as it takes to sing "happy birthday to you," at least once.  Yes, it takes more time, but that's what it takes to be effective.  Your call.

Doc D
PS:  The subtitle says "better than nothing" because sometimes nothing else is available.

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