What Is Hospital-Grade Hand Sanitiser?
The primary difference between hospital-grade hand sanitiser and ‘regular’ hand sanitiser, is that the former is regulated by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the latter is not. However, this is also a rather crucial difference. Being classified as hospital-grade means the sanitiser has been assessed and found to be safe and effective for use in hospitals and other healthcare environments. Without it being limited only for use in hospitals. Hospital-grade hand sanitisers are also available to regular consumers, and should be your preferred choice for better protection against disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
How Are Hand Sanitisers Regulated in Australia?
The TGA regulates hand sanitisers that are meant for use in hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare settings, and that claim to kill specific organisms, such as viruses. Hand sanitisers that are exempt from regulation are those that are considered to be cosmetic: they either offer low-level protection against bacteria–not viruses–and have low-risk ingredients.
During the COVID-19 pandemic the TGA also exempted hand sanitisers that meet specific formulation, manufacturing, advertising, and labelling requirements. The formulations for these must be based on the recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) and similar decisions by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Hand sanitisers that are regulated must be registered as over-the-counter (OTC) medicines, which also determines how they must be labelled and manufactured. Additionally, before being classified as hospital-grade, manufacturers need to submit data that supports any claims about the sanitiser, and also shows safety and effectiveness of the sanitiser. All of this together is assessed by the TGA before they classify any hand sanitiser as being hospital-grade.
Hand sanitisers that met the requirements for the Exclusion Determination followed during the COVID-19 pandemic would–like regulated, hospital-grade sanitisers–be allowed to be promoted as suitable for use in medical or health services. However, while like hospital-grade hand sanitisers they would be able to claim effectiveness against bacteria and viruses, they would not be able to explicitly claim or imply effectiveness against a specific disease or illness. That means no sanitiser–regulated or not–can claim to prevent or treat coronavirus.
What Is in Hospital-Grade Hand Sanitiser?
The TGA does not specify what ingredients are allowed in regulated hand sanitisers, but the supporting data that needs to be provided before hand sanitiser can be registered and classified as hospital-grade would need to list all ingredients. These sanitisers would be assessed to ensure that all the ingredients are safe and effective for use in health services.
However, hand sanitisers that meet the requirements for the Exclusion Determination must contain either 80 percent ethanol (ethyl alcohol) or 75 percent isopropyl alcohol. Alcohol has been shown to be the most effective at eliminating a broad range of bacteria and viruses quickly, and with minimal risk of resistance developing through prolonged use. Only ethanol or isopropyl alcohol is allowed because methanol–another type of alcohol–is toxic even when used externally. Ethanol is the same alcohol used in alcoholic drinks, and while it can be a little more harsh on the skin, it is more environmentally-friendly since it can be processed from corn and sugar cane. These hand sanitisers can also contain a small amount of glycerol, which is a natural moisturising agent.
TGA regulated hospital-grade sanitisers might be allowed to have other ingredients in them–such as thickeners to create hand sanitiser gels–but these would all have to be shown to be safe in healthcare environments, and in no way negatively affect the effectiveness of the sanitiser. Certain ingredients can cause allergic reactions, which the TGA would be cautious against.
What About Alcohol-Free Sanitisers?
Alcohol-free hand sanitisers are not recommended by the WHO because the active ingredient typically used in these sanitisers–benzalkonium chloride–has not been shown to be effective against a broad range of viruses. This means they would not be regulated by the TGA as they are considered cosmetic, not therapeutic. This does not mean they offer no benefit. However, if the reason you are using hand sanitiser is for better protection against bacteria and viruses, you should always consider using alcohol-based sanitisers.
How to Use Hand Sanitiser
Whether regulated by the TGA or falling under the Exclusion Determination, the effectiveness of alcohol-based hand sanitisers isn’t solely dependent on the alcohol content. As important is using it properly:
- If possible, remove any jewellery from your hands.
- Apply a generous amount of sanitiser to the palm of one hand.
- Rub the palms of both hands together to spread the sanitiser, then continue rubbing your hands to cover all parts.
- Rub the palm of one hand over the back of the other hand and then switch.
- Remember to interlace your fingers both palm to palm and palm to back of fingers and remember to also rub sanitiser over the thumbs of both hands.
- Pay particular attention to your fingers and the tips of your fingers and your nails.
- Continue repeating all the actions for at least a minute or until your hands are dry.
- Avoid using a cloth or other item to dry your hands afterwards.
Hand sanitiser–even hospital-grade–is meant to be used as a disinfectant and should only be used on clean hands. Hands that are visibly dirty or heavily soiled should be cleaned using soap and water first, as dirt will interfere with the effectiveness of the sanitiser.
It is also important that you remember that hand sanitisers are not effective against all bacteria and viruses, so using them should form only part of your good hand hygiene regime. Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water is still the recommended approach to hand hygiene, with hand sanitiser supporting this when you don’t have easy access to soap and water.
Elyptol’s range of hand sanitising gels and sprays are all hospital-grade and registered with the TGA. They are designed to not only be effective against a broad range of pathogens, but also to be kind to your skin and the environment.