Do hand disinfectants kill flu and cold pathogens?

Do hand disinfectants kill flu and cold pathogens?

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Are hand disinfectants effective against colds and flu?

In the cold winter months, colds and flu diseases are booming. One measure to protect yourself from such infectious diseases is regular hand washing. Hand disinfectants are also said to contribute to protection. But is that really the case?

Wash your hands with soap and warm water. This is one of the most effective methods of disease prevention, especially during the cold season and the flu season, according to a recent article by the renowned Mayo Clinic (USA). It also explains how useful hand disinfectants are to protect against infectious diseases.

Alternative to soap and water

Hand disinfectants do not require water and can be an acceptable alternative if soap and water are not available. But do such agents also kill germs? "Yes, they do if they're alcohol-based," says Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic Vaccine Research Group.

"Hand disinfectants contain alcohol or other ingredients," says Dr. Poland. “They basically inactivate the virus or the bacteria,” explains the expert.

As with soap and water, it must be ensured that the entire surface of the hands is covered with it. "You have to rub the hand sanitizer for about 20 seconds before it really works."

Effect also depends on the circumstances

However, it should be borne in mind that the circumstances matter when it comes to the use of hand disinfectants. For example, a strong sneeze or cough may require more than one load of disinfectant.

"If your hands are contaminated with mucus, hand disinfectant doesn't work very well because mucus protects the virus or bacteria," explains Dr. Poland.

"However, if you only touched a door handle and sit down to eat, disinfectant should be enough to use your hands safely," said the doctor.

Prevent such an influenza

"The best thing you can do to prevent influenza is to prevent it with a flu vaccine, wash your hands, and stay away from sick people," explains Dr. "If you are sick, stay at home."

Use hand disinfectant properly

Finally, it explains how to use hand disinfectant properly:

  • Apply the gel product to the palm of one hand. Check the label to find out the amount.
  • Rub your hands together.
  • Rub the gel over the entire surface of your hands and fingers until your hands are dry.

Be sure to monitor young children with alcohol-based hand sanitizers to avoid possible alcohol poisoning if swallowed. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.


  • Mayo Clinic: Infectious Diseases A – Z: Does hand sanitizer kill flu and cold germs ?, (accessed: January 7, 2020), Mayo Clinic

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