It’s early in the evening. I am drinking my coffee with wonderful music of a light drizzle. And the air is pierced by the scream of a woman. 

"Look at how dirty your hands are!" Says she.

The child looks at her hands with amusement.

“Ye lo hand sanitizer... aur saaf karo (clean using this hand sanitizer)!” She shrieks.

The child, but of course does as she is told. 

And I try to recall the days when people used simple soap and water! How wonderful they were. There was more common sense in the world then there is today... People washed their hands only when needed. People thought 10 times before using any product on themselves. People led a simple, yet mindful and meaningful life. 

Today, despite our ‘progress’, technologically or economically, one would think that people, rather humans as an evolved species, would get more sensible and independant... but on the contrary, people have become more technology dependent and callous. So much so, that they refuse to think at all! They see a T.V. commercial and think not only can they get ‘fair’ in 7 days but ‘wrinkle’ free in 10 days and thinner in 15 days. And these mindless habits ( of not analysing the pros and cons of a product and still using it) are being passed on to children!

How many of you, who use hand sanitizers, actually know it's pros and the cons? ( Other than the fact that it is antibacterial)  Does anyone stop to think the damages that a hand sanitizer can cause?

Did you know that:

1. Antibacterial hand sanitizers kill the good bacteria on the skin? These helpful bacteria are important in replenishing the bacterial flora in the intestines that prevent loose motions!

2. Antimicrobial hand sanitizers kill only bacteria? They do not kill viruses or fungi?! Yes, antibacterial is defined as a a substance active against ‘bacteria’ and nothing else. So if there is a viral infection like the flu or cold or viral conjunctivitis going around, using a hand sanitizer is pointless. 

3. Hand sanitizers (most of them) contain a ingredient called Triclosan or Triclocarban. Like I have said, this kills the ‘good’ bacteria but inadvertent use of it in children (without a doctors advise) can cause early puberty! Yes, the triclosan/ triclocarban can get absorbed into the body and cause raised levels of testosterone as a study (March 2008, Endrocrinology ) indicated.

 4. Hand sanitizers are inflammable (because they have alcohol) and like any inflammable product like a match box or firecrackers... they need to be kept out of the reach of children.

5. Hand Sanitizers contain high level of isopropyl or ethyl alcohol. Excessive use can cause absorption through the skin leading to possibilities like poisoning, shortness of breath, dizziness and stomach pain. Again an important reason why you should keep it away from children. 

6. If your hands are soiled because of dirt or mud or blood... a hand sanitizer is useless. You will need to use soap and water to remove that layer of grime. And after using soap (which is an antiseptic in itself due to it’s surfactant action) a hand sanitizer is of no use.

7. Hand sanitizer is one of the common reasons that people are getting Hand Dermatitis. Yes, the alcohol removes the Natural Moisturizing Factor (NMF) and thus makes the skin very dry. If adults skin can develop dermatitis, imagine what would happen to a child’s skin.

So simply avoid the mindless use of hand sanitizers. When you have the age old priceless soap (NOT AN ANTISEPTIC SOAP but a regular soap bar ) and water around, use that! It is a safer and a better option than  a hand sanitizer could ever be. Limit the use of hand sanitizer only under dire circumstances where there is no water!

And most importantly, do not encourage your children to use them especially without your supervision! 

Certain ‘fads’ are better left alone. They only lead to epidemics! Like the ‘hand sanitizer epidemic’ we doctors are facing today.

Think before you act!