Dr. Malik Ssempereza, a dermatologist, says the continued use of alcohol-based sanitiser can irritate the skin. “Alcohol-based sanitiser helps to kill germs, and it is more useful now in the COVID 19 era; however, it dries out the skin and can irritate people with sensitive skin. It can cause itching, drying and scaling, with development of rashes in some people,” he said.
The use of hand sanitiser has become a norm because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The use of
the alcohol-based sanitiser is one of the preventive measures that the Ministry of
health recommends for safeguarding against COVID-19 infection.
With the increase in COVID-19 cases in the country, hand sanitisers have become a must-have with some schools even asking parents to
provide them. However, health
experts say the frequent use of the wonder products reputed to kill germs in a
matter of seconds might lead to other health complications such as peeling of
the skin. Skin experts say that while sanitisers
containing at least 65 percent alcohol can kill disease-causing germs in hands,
they can also change the skin pH and texture.
The skin has a mildly acidic pH that ranges from 4.7 to 6.5 depending on the
part of the body. Most sanitisers have a neutral pH of 7 or above. Doctors say
prolonged use of hand sanitisers can change the pH of the hands to alkaline or
above a pH of 7 leading to reactions like itchy skin, dry or even peeling skin.
Dr. Malik Ssempereza, a dermatologist, says the continued use of
alcohol-based sanitiser can irritate the skin. “Alcohol-based sanitiser helps to kill germs, and it is more useful now in the
COVID 19 era; however, it dries out the skin and can irritate people with
sensitive skin. It can cause itching, drying and scaling, with development of
rashes in some people,” he said.
Dr. Samuel Mugoya, a skin specialist at
Mulago National Referral Hospital says that the continued use of alcohol can
affect the skin. However, he says more research is needed to determine the
severity of the effect they can have on the skin.
“Ethanol is the active
ingredient in sanitisers and it can affect the skin, but we do not know to
what level at the moment or how bad the situation can become later on. More
detailed research is needed to determine how long it takes for the skin to
start reacting to the sanitizers and what happens with prolonged use,” he said. URN spoke to a few people found using hand sanitisers in the
city. While some were aware of the effects of the frequent use of the products
others were surprised to discover that there might be side effects associated
with continuous use of the cleaning agents.
Faith Magoba, a 70-year-old retired teacher, who resides in Kampala,
told URN that she takes extra care when choosing a sanitiser to avoid having
dry hands. She says she now uses sanitisers that do not make the hands dry.
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Aggrey Mubiru, an accountant says hand sanitisers are like water and since
there are no side effects to using water the same applies to hand sanitisers. “But
these things are like using soap and water. When I use them, I see no side
effect. I did not know that they can have an effect on your skin, I have not
yet seen anything unusual on mine,” Mubiru said.
Persons who suffer from eczema or other skin conditions are not advised to use
hand sanitisers to make the skin dry. Instead of using hand sanitisers, they
use soap and water and a moisturizer afterwards to keep the hands moist. Also,
persons who work with chemicals like pesticides and powerful cleaning agents
like bleach should keep away from sanitisers because the mixture of chemicals
and alcohol can harm the body.
According to a study published in the Journal of
Occupational and Environmental Medicine, persons who used pesticides and sanitisers were found to have increased levels of pesticides in their bodies
compared to those who didn’t use them. Dr. Ssempereza recommends using Sanitisers with glycerin or even moisturizers often to moisten the skin located
around the hand area.
“I recommend using
alcohol sanitisers that contain glycerin. Glycerin helps to maintain moisture
in the skin and prevents over-drying irritation. Most people react to perfumes
in the sanitisers, so I recommend using perfume-free sanitisers. Always apply
pure petroleum jelly frequently if you have sensitive skin,” he advises.