DEAR DR. GOTT: A little background: I have been a blood donor since the 1980s and am close to the six gallon mark. Twelve years ago our son had acute myelocytic leukemia. He has been in remision for over 11 years. My wife and I are thankful. I was able to see first hand what infusions can do, especially to one neutropenic. When our son was at home between chemo sessions we gave him the infusions. Cleanliness was next to godliness.
Now, the local blood bank where I donate sent a letter claiming that the donors are messy in the restrooms leaving scraps of paper towels all over the floor. In response to this they have done away with them and have now told the donors to use the hand sanitizer on the wall outside the restrooms. They claims that this is fine.
I don’t like their reasoning and I don’t like the results. I am now using wet hands to turn off a faucet, opening an inward opening door with my foot and pressing the sanitizer dispenser. I’d rather dry with a paper towel and use it to open the door.
What do you think? I hate to stop donating blood but feel dirty doing it.
DEAR READER: First, I would like to commend your commitment to blood donation and thank you for your contribution.
Liquid and foam hand sanitizers are becoming increasingly common, especially in hospitals and doctors offices. They are quicker and more convenient to use because rather than using the soap and water to wash the “germs” away, they use chemicals to kill them. I, like you, prefer to wash my hands with soap and water and dry them with a paper towel. It just seems more sanitary and leaves my hands feeling cleaner. I have found that many sanitizers leave behind a slightly sticky film for a few minutes after use, not to mention the usually powerful chemical/rubbing alcohol-like smell.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends washing with soap and water as the best way to reduce the number of germs on the hands. If not available, alcohol sanitizers (with at least 60% alcohol) are the next best option. Sanitizers can reduce the number of germs quickly in certain situations, but don’t eliminate all types and aren’t effective in cleaning visibly dirty hands.
Whichever form is chosen, it is important to cleanse that hands for at least 20 seconds including the palms, between the fingers and the backs of the hands. Rinsing the hands in water before or after using the sanitizer isn’t necessary as it is with soap.
My suggestion to you is that if you are truly uncomfortable with the changes that your blood bank has made is to let them know. Tell them your concerns. Perhaps if they get enough complaints about the sanitizer they will switch back to the paper towels. In the meantime, you can either find another blood bank to visit, or even bring in your own paper towels so that you can wash your hands as you see fit and not have to touch the surrounding surfaces.