A Wee Bit of Alcohol?

Flu season is upon us, I think. Seems like it’s about now that the flu injection is forced upon us by the paternalistic and domineering medical community in violation of our good American civil liberties. Viva la virus! Of course that’s strictly off the record, because this NYC podiatrist isn’t going to be responsible for anyone getting sick for lack of a flu shot. And continuing our discussion of topical antiseptics, thought this might be an appropriate time to consider another simple flu prevention technique - alcohol wipes and hand sanitizers.

Like just about everything else that is even remotely related to health, there is a lot of conflicting data on this subject. The most common products out there are isopropyl or ethyl alcohol which may be called rubbing alcohol, typically packaged as alcohol pads or wipes, or as a popular hand sanitizer product. Got all that? Ok good. These products are effective at killing most bacteria and viruses- 99.99% according to the manufacturer as long as the concentration of alcohol is between 60-95%. The efficacy may vary depending on the state of the surface and the individual use, for instance the efficacy goes down when using hand sanitizer on dirty greasy hands, so a little soap and water is in order, kids. But when used properly, the name brand and generic hand sanitizers that we obsessive compulsives instinctively reach for after any contact with another human do clean the surfaces quite effectively, and may thereby prevent transmission of bacteria and viruses, and by extension colds and the flu. (And for you young Heisenbergs out there who noticed that alcohol is the same as used in regular booze and such, there are additional ingredients to render it even more bitter than drinking alcohol and the products that contain it already is.) It is also clear form multiple large and respected studies that the use of alcohol pads over seemingly clean skin prior to administration of any injection is not necessary and is not effective in preventing infection. And in fact, the infection rate after injection is exceedingly low, and not influenced by the use or disuse of alcohol pads. Of course since not all of you are kind enough to read this most thrilling and chilling blog I shall continue the charade of the pre-injection alcohol wipedown, along with the magic cold spray. And I’ll know who’s been doing their homework based on who notices…

So my dear NYC podiatry patients, the bottom line is, get your flu shot if your doctor says so, wash hands with soap and water, and yes you can use a hand sanitizer for additional cleaning. And if you do get a cold this winter, remember how to make that tissue dance - put a little boogie in it (one for the kids).

See you in the office.

Ernest Isaacson

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