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Hand hygiene: All about hand sanitizers

Germs are everywhere. They can get onto hands and items we touch during daily activities and make you sick. Washing hands with soap and water is one of the most important steps to clean your hands.

However, if soap and water are not readily available, hand rub with a hand sanitizer can help you avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

How should I use a hand sanitizer?

  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 70% alcohol. Sanitizers with a higher alcohol concentration are more effective at killing germs than those with a lower alcohol concentration or non-alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
  • Put coin-size amount of sanitizer to the palm of one hand. This amount should be enough to cover all surfaces of both your hands and fingers.
  • Rub your hands together until they feel dry (this should take around 20 seconds).
  • Do NOT rinse or wipe off the hand sanitizer before it is dry.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose immediately after using the sanitizer, as it can cause irritation.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be flammable and therefore it should not be used before handling fire or cooking.
  • Do teach your children how to apply the sanitizer and monitor its use.

When can I use a hand sanitizer?

Usually, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is recommended when your hands are not visibly dirty or greasy. However, during the following occasions, if soap and water are not readily available, a hand sanitizer can be used; wash with soap and water as soon as you can for at least 20 seconds.

  • After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
  • Before and after visiting a friend or loved one in a hospital or nursing home
  • After leaving the store while grocery shopping
  • While shopping, if you must handle money, a card, or use a keypad, use sanitizer right after paying.
  • After accepting deliveries or collecting mail
  • At banks ATMs, after using the keypad for transactions. 
  • At doctor’s clinic and while getting medicines, after paying with card, cash, or check.

Do remember

  • Do NOT use hand sanitizer if your hands are visibly dirty or greasy: for example, after gardening, playing outdoors, or after camping. Wash your hands with soap and water instead.
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of microbes on hands in some situations, but sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.
  • Hand sanitizers might not remove harmful chemicals, like pesticides and heavy metals, from hands.
  • Swallowing alcohol-based hand sanitizers can cause alcohol poisoning. Supervise young children while they use hand sanitizer to prevent such events, especially in schools and childcare facilities.
  • It should not be stored in extreme heat (for example, it should not be stored in a car during the summer months).


Protect yourself from diarrhoea

  • Drink water from safe sources or drink boiled or chlorinated water
  • Eat properly cooked food
  • Wash vegetables before cooking; avoid fruits that are cut and left in the open
  • Ensure proper disposal of waste and human excreta
  • Always wash hands well, both before and after consuming food
  • To prevent dehydration take as much fluids with salt and sugar;
    • Salted yoghurt drink
    • Vegetable or chicken soup with salt
    • Salted rice water
    • Commercially available oral rehydration salts (ORS)
  • Do not self-medicate with antibiotics

Visit a doctor if you are suffering from diarrhoea.


6 Steps of effective handwashing

Handwashing is the single most important means to prevent the spread of infection.



Your sinuses are four pairs of hollow spaces in your cheeks and around your eyes.

The frontal sinuses are behind the forehead; the maxillary sinuses are behind the cheeks; the ethmoid sinuses are behind the bridge of the nose; and the sphenoid sinuses are deeper in the skull behind the nose.

A membrane that produces mucus lines the sinuses. When you’re healthy, the mucus is a thin, watery fluid that flows freely into the upper part of your nose. But when your sinuses become inflamed, the mucus gets thick and sticky, so it can’t flow through the tiny openings that lead to the nose. Fluid builds up in the sinuses, causing pressure and pain – it’s sinusitis.

What causes sinusitis?

Sinusitis is an infection caused by bacteria. All of us harbor millions of bacteria in our nose, and many of us have one or more of the germs that cause sinusitis. These bacteria are harmless in the nose, and they don’t even cause trouble when a few move up into the sinuses – as long as they drain back into the nose.

But if sinus drainage is blocked, the bacteria multiply and cause infection. Blockage is the main reason we get sinusitis – and good drainage is the key to treatment.

What triggers sinusitis?

  • The common cold is the leading culprit. Viruses, not bacteria, cause colds, and antibiotics are useless for treatment.
  • Colds also change the mucus, preventing it from doing its normal job of trapping bacteria.
  • Many other things can block your sinuses and lead to infection. The list includes allergies, cigarette smoke and other irritating fumes, changes in barometric pressure during flying or scuba diving, nasal polyps, and a deviated nasal septum.

What are the symptoms?

The main symptoms of sinusitis are a runny or stuffy nose and pain and pressure in your head and face.

You may also have a yellow or green drainage or drip from your nose or down the back of your throat (Postnasal discharge).

Where you feel the pain and tenderness depends on which sinus is affected.

Other common symptoms of sinusitis may include:

  • A headache
  • Bad breath
  • A cough that produces mucus
  • A fever
  • Pain in your teeth
  • A reduced sense of taste or smell

Do I have sinusitis?

Sinusitis is a common problem, and most people can learn to diagnose it themselves. The Table below is a simple guide to help you tell sinusitis from colds and allergies.

Table1: Comparing Sinusitis, Cold and Allergy Symptoms

Your doctor’s role

  • In most cases, your doctor can diagnose sinusitis from your symptoms. If pressing over your sinuses causes pain, sinusitis is likely. If complications are suspected, or if your sinusitis is unusually severe, a CT scan is very helpful.

How is sinusitis treated?

Promoting drainage

People with early sinusitis can recover simply by promoting drainage. Here’s what to do:

  • Drink lots of water: Good hydration helps keep the mucus thin and loose.
  • Sleep with your head elevated: If your pain is only on one side, sleep with the pain-free side of your face on the pillow.
  • Inhale steam: Stay behind in a hot shower; Boil a kettle, pour the water into a pan, and bend over the pan with a towel over your head to inhale the steam. Even hot tea or chicken soup will help; the secret ingredient is the steam. One way or another, inhale steam three to four times a day.
  • Ask your doctor: about prescription nasal sprays containing steroids, particularly if you have allergies or if your sinusitis is stubborn.
  • Use a salt-water nasal spray to loosen mucus and rinse your sinuses.
  • Use decongestants: Tablets containing pseu-doephedrine are very helpful, but may raise your blood pressure, speed up your pulse, or make you jittery and keep you up at night. Nasal sprays containing oxymetazoline or phenylephrine don’t have these side effects, but if you use them too often or too long, your nose can become irritated or dependent on them.
  • Avoid antihistamines: They’re great for allergies and when your nose waters from a cold, but they make mucus thick and hard to drain, the last thing you want in sinusitis.
  • A warm compress on your face may soothe sinus pain.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin or acetaminophen will help reduce pain and fever.


If your sinusitis does not improve after two to four days of drainage therapy – or if it’s very severe to begin with- your doctor will prescribe an antibiotic.
Many drugs are effective, so your physician will decide what’s best for you.

What can be the possible complications?

The sinuses are surrounded by critical structures, including the brain, the eyes, and the skull. On rare occasions, sinus infections can spread to one of these areas. Notify your doctor promptly if your sinusitis gets worse with one or more of these warning symptoms:

  • High fever
  • Severe headache
  • Mental confusion or stiff neck
  • Swelling of the cheek, forehead, or roof of the mouth
  • A swollen, red, painful eye
  • Impaired vision
  • Difficulty breathing, swallowing, or speaking.

Fortunately, none of these problems is likely. Still, they serve to remind us that sinusitis is not just the sniffles. And patients with weakened immune systems always require careful medical evaluation and treatment for sinusitis.