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Is too much sanitizing and disinfecting good or bad? Local doctor explains

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Posted at 8:36 PM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 22:36:25-04

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- Almost everywhere you go, you might see people pouring hand sanitizer on their hands and even wiping down everything with disinfectant products. The question is: Can using these products cause more harm than help?

These products are high in use and demand as people take action to mitigate spread of the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. Stores continue to run out of disinfectant products such as sprays and hand sanitizer.

Someone coughs, then next you might see them lather on some hand sanitizer - but Dr. Rachel Romaine, a public health physician with the Peninsula Health District, said you may feel side effects instantly.

"Dry, irritated skin from using it multiple times," Romaine said. "If you have skin that has cracks on it, you could get some stinging or burning."

She said the same goes for disinfectant products such as wipes.

"Some of those cleaners, there's lots of chemicals in the whole gamut of cleaners out there," she said. "They can cause irritation to the skin, eyes, the airways."

She also said certain ingredients in cleaning solutions may even be cancerous. Romaine cited a 2018 study from Norway’s University of Bergen that said women who excessively cleaned with chemicals had lungs like smokers.

"It described the decrease in lung function in those women as equivalent to people who smoke 10 to 20 cigarettes a day over 20 years," Romaine said.

Related: Why flushing disinfectant wipes could cost you

When using these products, Romaine suggested using good ventilation and wearing gloves. She added if you spill some cleaning product on yourself, clean it off with soap and water.

She also explained how to get the most benefits out of using sanitizing products and chemicals. Romaine said that after you wipe down your surface with wipe or liquid, wait for it to dry.

When it comes to hand sanitizer, she urged you use it sparingly. It should only be used it if you do not have access to soap and water.

Romaine also urged that chemicals and sanitizers be kept away from children. She said that the colorful canisters and aromatic smells can attract children and is a reason poison control centers receive cases of children intoxicated with these chemicals.

"I wouldn't necessarily say too much of a good thing is a bad thing," Romaine said. "I would say people are being cautious and I think that's wise, but using the cleaning products, I think that you need to take adequate precautions."

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