Sanitiser is fine… so long as flame isn’t at hand
New Delhi: While advice about using alcohol-based hand sanitisers if soap and water are not available is sound, a 44-year-old man found out that there is additional advice that should be given to such users.
He was brought to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital on after sustaining 35% burn injuries. While doctors said a sanitiser evaporates 2-3 seconds after application and so poses little direct threat, immediately lighting a flame or perhaps a cigarette after using sanitiser can be risky.
Being treated in the department of plastic and cosmetic surgery at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, the patient is in stable condition. Doctors disclosed that the resident of Rewari in Haryana was at home at the time of the incident. He was cleaning his keys and mobile phone with a hand sanitiser and carried the bottle of the liquid to the kitchen, where his wife was cooking. There some sanitiser spilled on his kurta. “The fumes were ignited by the gas flame and the kurta caught fire. The patient suffered burns on his face, neck, chest, abdomen and both hands,” a doctor confirmed.
Dr Mahesh Mangal, chairman of the department, stressed that though absolutely essential at this time, hand sanitisers needed to be handled with care. “The high ethyl alcohol content of up to 62% makes a hand sanitiser highly flammable. Never use sanitisers near a fire or heated place. Use a limited quantity and allow it to dry,” Mangal instructed.
Also read: FAQs on Hand Sanitizers
Another doctor added that alcohol-based sanitisers posed no great risk on the skin because it evaporated in seconds. “Only if spilled in fires or on your clothes do sanitisers catch fire easily. People can cook or use a sanitiser near a flame, but need to be careful,” he pointed out. “In any case, one should ideally wash hands with soap before cooking and not rely on sanitisers.”
Dr P S Bhandari, consultant, burns and plastic surgery, Lok Nayak Hospital, reiterated that the chances of catching fire through sanitisers was low. “Deodorants, repellents and other sprays also have alcohol content, making them flammable. Like them, sanitisers are generally safe to use. But remember not to light a flame or come close to a fire immediately after using it,” he said.
Dr Bheem S Nanda, senior consultant in the department of plastic & cosmetic surgery at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, suggested relying on scent. “Most sanitisers are scented and the smell vanishes after a while. This is generally an indicator that the alcohol in your hand has evaporated and you can then light a cigarette or agarbatti or begin cooking,” said Nanda.
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