A six-year-old boy has been blinded in one eye after using a hand sanitiser, according to medical reports.
The Ajman, UAE-based Tunisian resident’s loss of vision, according to the report, was due to an accidental chemical burn caused by a sanitiser.
The case clearly highlights the potential dangers of the inappropriate use of hand sanitisers, while international reports claim there is an increase in the number of US teenagers who drink hand sanitiser because it contains alcohol, with some even distilling the formulation to get a stronger hit.
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs. If soap and water are not available, experts recommend using an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 60 per cent alcohol. However, the CDC warned that sanitisers do not eliminate all types of germs.
Dr Ashraf El Houfi, chair of the Infection Control Department at Dubai Hospital, said that hand washing with soap and water should be the primary method of disinfecting hands to prevent acquiring and spreading infections. “When water is unavailable, one could use a sanitiser, which takes 10-15 seconds,” he said. “A sanitiser is complimentary to hand washing; it should not replace hand washing.”
Dr El Houfi also cautioned against using hand sanitisers on children. “Like any other disinfectant, the product should be used with caution, especially by children,” he said. “If any product gets into the eyes, the area must be washed with plain water immediately, and followed up with medical attention.”
Sharon Oyston, Infection Control Practitioner at the American Hospital Dubai, said: “Alcohol-based sanitisers are simple to use and come with instructions that should be followed.”
On the benefit of sanitisers, Oyston said that the active ingredient in most hand sanitisers is 70 per cent alcohol with ingredients like water, fragrance and glycerine. “The alcohol content is highly effective in killing bacteria like MRSA, E-coli and salmonella as well as flu viruses,” she said.
Oyston added that hand washing in more effective especially when hands are visibly dirty or to rid of certain germs.
Leon Vercueil, senior brand manager from Dettol, Reckitt Benckiser Middle East, said that hand sanitisers are a good alternative when traditional hand washing is not possible. He said: “Hand sanitisers are at least as effective as hand wash and are the best way to sanitise ‘on the go’. Ensure to keep product away from your eyes and mouth, and closely supervise children during use to keep them safe while using hand sanitisers.”