Does rubbing alcohol kill corona-virus? People now want to know how alcohol kills the virus, and does alcohol kill viruses in general?
Coronavirus and Alcohol
Is it true that alcohol can kill the coronavirus?
The short answer to this question is yes, it does. Applying alcohol to the hands is one of the ways that you can protect yourself from the community transmission of COVID-19. We will discuss this in detail in a bit. But before that, you need to know what we are protecting ourselves against – the novel coronavirus of 2019, or COVID-19.
COVID-19 isn’t unique in the sense that it belongs to a family of viruses called coronaviruses. According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a large group of viruses that are known to cause disease in both animals and humans. Several coronaviruses are known to cause respiratory problems in humans, including seasonal flu and COVID-19. The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) are also part of this family.
Research is still ongoing with COVID-19 because it is a novel virus that has just recently entered the population. COVID-19 was unknown until its first massive outbreak in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. COVID-19 is now considered a pandemic and has affected many countries in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
Why does alcohol kill the coronavirus?
Alcohol has long been known to kill a variety of microorganisms, including harmful human pathogens (bacteria and viruses). While COVID-19 is novel, that doesn’t mean that its structure is different from other coronaviruses, so it is susceptible, still, to hand-washing and the application of sanitizers and disinfectant agents like rubbing alcohol. A recent study just published April 23, 2020, in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases showed that common disinfectants, including rubbing alcohol, showed efficient virus inactivation once applied to the skin.
To make the application of alcohol and other sanitizers more effective, it is important to leave the sanitizer on the skin for as long as possible to give it time to kill any pathogens lurking on the surface of the skin. According to Donald Schaffner, a microbiologist from Rutgers University, “an important general rule is that you shouldn’t immediately wipe a cleaning solution off as soon as you’ve applied it to a surface. The alcohol has to stay on the surface for as long as possible to be able to kill bacteria and viruses. This also applies to surfaces that people usually touch.” Do this to easily prevent the spread of human pathogens.
Recently, it has been discovered that COVID-19 can stay alive on plastics for as long as 16 hours, so it’s safe to say that you should be sanitizing your home regularly, now that the virus is amongst the population. It is easy to pass on the virus to others.
What should you be attentive if you use alcohol for disinfection?
As a general rule of thumb, you should never combine different cleaning agents, as mixing them may cause noxious chemicals to form. For example, combining hydrogen peroxide and bleach is a big no-no, as the resulting solution would be harmful to health. The last thing we need is poisonous gases wafting throughout our homes just because we wanted to clean surfaces.
How can you further avoid getting infected by COVID-19?
These are some of the things that you can do to ensure that your risk of getting infected by COVID-19 is minimized:
- Practice regular hand-washing throughout the day. Use an antibacterial soap and wash your hands for at least 20 seconds before rinsing away the soap.
- Use alcohol-based hand rubbing solutions regularly, especially when you are outside. Do not wipe away any cleaning solution once you apply it on your hands; give it sufficient time to kill pathogens. The longer an alcohol-based solution stays on your hands, the better the chances of wiping out any viruses that may be lurking there.
- Practice self-isolation and avoid crowded places as much as possible. In crowded areas, the likelihood of coming into contact with someone who might have COVID-19 is much higher. Crowded areas also make it more difficult for you to maintain at least one meter distance from other people. You need at least one meter distance to be safe from the virus if someone coughs or sneezes.
- Avoid touching any part of your face, especially the eyes, nose, and mouth. Viruses can be transferred from the hands to the orifices on your face, and this can become the source of infection not just for COVID-19 but other diseases that can be transmitted in this manner.
- If you have symptoms like the difficulty of breathing, coughing, etc., be sure to consult with a healthcare provider.
What else can you use to kill coronavirus?
On top of hand-washing, there are a couple of other things that you can use to ensure your safety and the safety of those around you. Bleach or sodium hypochlorite can be used to disinfect your surroundings and, most especially, the surfaces that people usually touch or hold. The bleach has to stay on the surface for ten to fifteen minutes before the surface is wiped again with a moist cloth. Bleach works because it disentangles the protein in the RNA of the virus, rendering the virus inactivated or “dead.”
Be sure that you follow the manufacturers’ instructions on the bottles of bleach that you use. If you do not like using bleach, you can also use surgical spirit for the disinfection of household surfaces.
Like bleach, you need to apply the surgical spirit with a piece of clean cloth, and the surgical spirit has to stay on the surface for ten to fifteen minutes to deactivate the viruses there. Alcohol also destroys the protein in the RNA of viruses. You can also use antibacterial wipes to clean your hands and other surfaces. Benzalkonium chloride is often the antibacterial agent of choice for wet wipes.
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