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What the Yuck: Is the hand-sanitizer pump dirty?
January 21st, 2012
03:24 PM ET

What the Yuck: Is the hand-sanitizer pump dirty?

Too embarrassed to ask your doctor about sex, body quirks, or the latest celeb health fad? In a regular feature and a new book, "What the Yuck?!," Health magazine medical editor Dr. Roshini Raj tackles your most personal and provocative questions. Send 'em to Dr. Raj at whattheyuck@health.com.

Q: How dirty is the pump of hand-sanitizing gel in my doctor’s office, at the gym, and in other public places?

A: Frankly, the part of the pump your finger touches is probably pretty nasty, but the hand sanitizer you’re pumping out should get rid of any germs.

To be extra safe, use a tissue or pull down your shirt to press on the gel dispenser. Better yet, carry your own bottle, and use it often.

And when in doubt, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Overall, that simple move is the best way to keep your hands germ-free.

Copyright Health Magazine 2011


soundoff (36 Responses)
  1. hamsta

    i don't think the problem is so much the pump being dirty as is overuse of antibiotics.overuse of antibiotics creates a compound problem.bacteria becomes resistant to antibiotics and the body doesn't build immunity to disease unless it is subject to disease.

    January 22, 2012 at 00:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • SallyLu

      You are absolutely right. Thank you!

      January 23, 2012 at 14:07 | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      I'd rather not get sick at all. haven't had so much as a cold for over two years and I credit that to good hygiene. Something us moderns understand.

      January 23, 2012 at 17:11 | Report abuse |
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    January 22, 2012 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jim

      Go back on the antipsychotics, buddy.

      January 23, 2012 at 13:51 | Report abuse |
  3. Carla Vazq

    Another worthless article.

    January 23, 2012 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • binky42

      Indeed.

      January 23, 2012 at 09:15 | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      Agreed.

      January 23, 2012 at 10:07 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Very indepth! Why not just use the touch-less, sensor hand sanitizers???

      January 23, 2012 at 11:54 | Report abuse |
  4. Joe

    An article that tries to justify OCD. nice.

    January 23, 2012 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KJC

      hahaha. That's kind of what I thought, too.

      January 24, 2012 at 13:11 | Report abuse |
  5. Beth

    What sort of insane germaphobe writes these things? How about an article on the overuse of antibiotic soaps, creams and medicines? If you are scared that germs will make you sick, give your body a chance to build immunities instead of being obsessive to the point that the only thing left are the supergerms that are resistent to antibiotics. Let kids play in the mud and live a little!

    January 23, 2012 at 11:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dom625

      I agree. What a lot of people fail to realize about germs is that we are supposed to have them around. Your indigenous bacteria protect you from invasion by other bacteria and microbes. The use of antibacterial soaps, gels, and cleaners is interfering with the symbiotic relationships we have had for eons with our natural flora and fauna. What we end up with are these superbugs that cannot be treated. But, the cleaner business is raking in dough playing on everyone's fears, so I don't expect our obsession with sterility to vanish anytime soon.

      January 23, 2012 at 12:48 | Report abuse |
  6. i_know_everything

    the article is too long, can someone post a summary

    January 23, 2012 at 11:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Kiki

    Carry your own hand sanitizer and "use it often?" How about never use hand sanitizer again? Plain old soap and water is the safest and best way of cleaning your hands without contributing to the rise of resistant strains of bacteria and killing good or benign bacteria that compete with the types of bacteria that make people sick.

    Any doctor should know this, and absolutely discourage using antibacterial soaps and sanitizers on a regular basis. For generally healthy people, most germs are not going to hurt you. Wash your hands with normal soap and avoid touching your face too much. Relax, and let your immune system do its job.

    January 23, 2012 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      Why are you posting this misinformation? You think alcohol-based sanitizer is an antibiotic? Alcohol-based sanitizer is a germicide– organisms can't become "resistant" to a -cide.

      Let me give you this example– do you think it would ever be possible for a human to evolve resistance to very strong acid or be able to breathe chlorine gas? NO! It's the same thing with germicides like isopropyl alcohol.

      Now, antibacterial soaps or over-prescribed antibiotics... yes, you are correct there is a problem there.

      January 23, 2012 at 17:06 | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      To Dave: Yes, hand sanitizer is alcohol based. But it does kill microbes that would normally compete with disease causing bacteria.

      And plenty of antibacterial/antimicrobial soaps are marketed right alongside "sanitizers."

      January 23, 2012 at 20:47 | Report abuse |
  8. Michael

    There is a difference between antibacterial products (triclosan, et. al.) and hand sanitizers. Bathing germs in extreme alcohol does not increase their tolerance or create resistant strains.

    You had better hope that your doctor uses more than soap and water when he/she sees dozens of patients a day. You had also better hope they use much more than that when they go into surgery.

    January 23, 2012 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • raduga

      Uh, doctors have been using soap and water to wash their hands forever, and they don't get sick any more often than the rest of us (reasonably healthy) people.

      January 23, 2012 at 19:32 | Report abuse |
  9. jodi

    hello! even if you touch the 'dirty' pump, you are sanitizing right after, so any germs you potentially get will be killed by the sanitizer. this is just like the 'automatic soap dispenser' does it really matter if the pump is dirty? you are washing your hands AFTER you touch it!!!!

    January 23, 2012 at 13:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. SallyLu

    As many have mentioned, hand sanitizers kill both good and bad bacteria – not germs. Our bodies need bacteria to function and the over use of these sanitizers is killing off necessary good bacteria, and is causing resistant strains of distructive bacteria. They do not kill germs or viruses at all.

    January 23, 2012 at 14:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Josh

      I believe you are thinking of antibiotics, which doesn't kill the strongest of the bad germs, and allows them to reproduce. Hand sanitizers don't use antibiotics, but instead, alcohol which kills all the germs, and the ones it doesn't are too drunk to reproduce anyway.

      January 23, 2012 at 14:35 | Report abuse |
  11. Josh

    Wow, I have never come across a Hand Sanitizer that wasn't automatic.

    Now, my hand soap pump at home, next to all of our bathroom sinks, even looks pretty grungy. Mostly because of the embossed words of "Press here".

    January 23, 2012 at 14:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Chuck

    What I can not understand is how the human race survived for countless millennia before the invention of hand sanitizer?

    January 23, 2012 at 15:42 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Dave

      Yes, it's amazing what modern science has done for us. that's why we don't die horribly at age 30 anymore. You're free to move to Papua New Guinea though and live with the primitives! Go right ahead.

      January 23, 2012 at 17:08 | Report abuse |
    • itsme

      Well, Chuck is speaking specifically of hand sanitizer, not basic hygiene like hand washing, bathing and the like.

      January 23, 2012 at 17:59 | Report abuse |
    • raduga

      Yeah, Dave's got it right - hand sanitizer is why we no longer die at 30.

      January 23, 2012 at 19:29 | Report abuse |
  13. raduga

    This article is insane, and anyone really worried about "germs" (from soap dispensers!?!) should probably concern themselves more with their MENTAL health.

    If you eat well, exercise, and avoid excess stress, your body is more than capable of handling those "dirty" things you touch all day long.

    January 23, 2012 at 19:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. raduga

    Ever seen what a toddler does when left to their own devices? They crawl around and put everything in their mouths. It is a normal part of development - and one of the primary purposes of this is to build immunity. The body evolved for millions of years without hand sanitizer - why not treat your body right and trust it to be strong? Our society seems to have become hyper-paranoid about "germs," as if you're going to contract cancer or heart disease from the doorknobs you dare to touch with your bare hands.... and even if you use hand sanitizer all day long, you're STILL going to get the occasional cold just like everyone else...

    January 23, 2012 at 19:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sanjyot

      Hey, I'm all for a healthy dose of nummiologically active germs! Keep lickin' those windows, kid! I encourage mine to suck on rocks at the playground. (OK, they do that on their own – I just don't stop them. All the cute posh moms are always horrified and whip out their hand sanitizer.) Still, healthier kids than mine you'll never meet.

      April 8, 2012 at 10:24 | Report abuse |
  15. nK

    This is the stupidest thing I've read all day.

    January 23, 2012 at 20:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. MashaSobaka

    You mean that thing I touch right before I sanitize my hands might not be sanitary? Huh. Well that's gonna keep me up at night.

    January 23, 2012 at 20:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Emersonn

    I use an automatic pump – just wave your hand under the unit, a green light comes on and you get soap and you can do it several times to get more that can be corrected with a push of the plus button to increase amount dispensed each time.

    January 23, 2012 at 21:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. JVH

    All these comments and not a single mention of the evil socialist black president?!??!

    January 23, 2012 at 22:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Maatesh

    Make a couple of atnural hand sanitizers and keep one with you all the time to clean your hands and to help keep them germ free. Germs make

    April 9, 2012 at 06:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Rangga

    Zune and iPod: Most people copmare the Zune to the Touch, but after seeing how slim and surprisingly small and light it is, I consider it to be a rather unique hybrid that combines qualities of both the Touch and the Nano. It's very colorful and lovely OLED screen is slightly smaller than the touch screen, but the player itself feels quite a bit smaller and lighter. It weighs about 2/3 as much, and is noticeably smaller in width and height, while being just a hair thicker.

    April 14, 2012 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.