The use of hydroalcoholic gel helps - like washing your hands with soap - to fight the spread of the coronavirus that is the source of the Covid-19 epidemic. But to limit the risks of human and environmental contamination, it must still be used correctly.

Gels or hydroalcoholic solutions, effective in eliminating viruses and bacteria, are particularly popular in the current epidemic context. At the office, on public transport, at the supermarket…. with the masks, they accompany us in each of our daily journeys. But do we really know how to use it correctly? Update on counterproductive habits and the dangers associated with these concentrated products.

Do not respect the minimum friction time

Applying the gel requires vigorous rubbing of your hands to penetrate the product and distribute it over the entire skin. To be effective, this gesture should last between 20 and 30 seconds, until the hands are dry.

The World Health Organization recommends using enough to cover both hands and wrists. To protect yourself, it is better to have too much than not enough.

Make sure that your hydroalcoholic solution or gel carries the NF EN 14476 standard which guarantees its effectiveness against viruses. To be effective, the product must also be sufficiently concentrated in alcohol (60 to 70% ethyl alcohol, propyl isopropyl), underlines the National Agency for Drug Safety (Ansm)

Disinfect only your palms

A drop in the palm of the palm is not enough to eliminate the risks. This procedure must be carried out carefully and step by step.

Rub your hands palm to palm (rotating movement);
rub the backs of your hands;
don't forget the interdigital spaces;
rub the backs of your fingers;
insist on the thumbs;
pass one last time on the fingertips;
take the opportunity to insist on your nails. Lots of bacteria can nest under them, which is why we recommend cutting them regularly.

Use only hydroalcoholic gel

It is important to integrate the right reflexes, but the use of gels or hydroalcoholic solutions should not entirely replace hand washing. Indeed, the Ansm recommends using it "in the absence of an available water point".

Because ? These products have bactericidal, virucidal and fungicidal properties, but unlike washing with soap and water, they do not clean hands.

Use hydroalcoholic gel on wet hands

To be effective, the hydroalcoholic gel must be applied to dry skin. As the name suggests, it contains alcohol, which is much less effective when used on wet hands. As Philippe Glaser, director of the Ecology and evolution of antibiotic resistance unit at the Institut Pasteur at Huffpost, points out: “the product is diluted and the less sensitive bacteria will survive”.

In addition, applied to wet hands, the gel can cause an exothermic reaction and irritate the skin.

Keeping a hydroalcoholic gel too long

This may come as a surprise, but the hydroalcoholic gel does have an expiration date, which is indicated on the label of the bottle. Once opened, the product is no longer sterile. Generally, it can be stored between 1 and 3 months after the first use (according to the manufacturers and according to its composition). If you use it beyond this limit, it may not be as effective anymore.

The price of hydro-alcoholic solutions remains regulated until January 10, 2021 (like that of masks).

Exposing yourself to the sun after applying hydroalcoholic gel

Hydroalcoholic gel and sun don't mix, dermatologists insist as summer approaches. Due to their high alcohol concentration, these products dry out the skin and make it more fragile to sunlight. The risk of burns is therefore much greater.

In addition, products that contain perfume or essential oils can induce hyperpigmentation (appearance of dark spots) after exposure to the sun. At the beach, if possible, always prefer to wash your hands with cold water and soap.

Rub your eyes after disinfecting your hands

Hydroalcoholic gel presents high risks for our eyesight. Pain, redness, loss of vision… to avoid these harmful effects, be careful not to put your hands near your face and eyes after applying the gel.

 In a press release published on Friday July 24, the Adolphe de Rothschild Foundation Hospital warns of the risks to children: “These solutions, contained in vending machines, are often placed at the height of children who can receive them in the eyes following improper handling ”.

"It only takes 30 seconds for the epidermis of the cornea to peel off (with 20% alcohol). There, hydroalcoholic gels contain 60% to 80%", explains Prof. Eric Gabison, ophthalmic surgeon, at Le Parisien . In the event of projection at eye level, the ophthalmologist recommends rinsing the eye with physiological serum for half an hour (if not using water). In case of pain or loss of vision, go to the emergency room.

Apply hydroalcoholic gel on your animal

In the face of growing angst, some owners have asked questions that are surprising to say the least. “Some owners ask us how to disinfect their animal returning from a walk" explains Dr Charlotte Piquet, veterinarian, to France Bleu: "What should we put on its paws? And on the tongue since he licked all over the floor? Most of the time, they think of bleach or hydro-alcoholic solutions as in human medicine ”.

However, in March, the Order of Veterinarians alerted owners against the dangers of using detergents and hydroalcoholic gels. The risks involved? Burns by contact (when the product is placed on the skin of the animal) or by ingestion when it licks its coat. Some cases of ethyl coma have even been noted.

If you want to wash your pet, just use a shampoo suitable for your pet.