Houston 'tox-doc' explains why homemade hand sanitizer is a bad idea

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Environmental toxicologist Dr. Noreen Khan-Mayberry spoke with ABC13 about steps you can take to protect yourself from the coronavirus.

There are people that are making (hand sanitizer) themselves. How do you do it? And is that even a good thing?

"I don't recommend making your own hand sanitizer simply because you cannot test the effectiveness. The CDC recommends washing your hands with warm soap and water whenever necessary. But, I also recommend that people pay special attention under the nail beds. Do it for 20 to 30 seconds and in that extra time, just scrape under the nail beds. Now, there are times when you can't get to water and that is when you use hand sanitizer. The alcohol concentration has to be anywhere from 60% to 90% to really be effective, and a lot of the homemade recipes I see out there, they don't even call for any kind of isopropyl alcohol. Some of them have just tea tree oil, essential oils and aloe vera gel. It might smell good, but it's really not going to be effective against the coronavirus. Also I recommend the "no-touch" greetings. I don't even recommend the touching of the elbows because we're supposed to cough and sneeze into our elbows."

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What should we tell our children?

"Keep your cell phones to yourself, do not share drinks. They should wash their hands as much as possible. But, I'm asking the teachers to give them some leeway to go wash their hands because a lot of teachers, they are really strict on bathroom breaks. But, this is not the time, you know, to be so strict if a kid needs to go wash their hands, definitely allow them to wash their hands. Don't just hit the sanitizer button because even with hand sanitizer, you're still carrying a lot of germs. Nothing is as effective as washing with soap and water. For small children, you've got to have a lot of parental and teacher direction for them. Make sure they're not hugging and kissing because smaller kids love to hug. They love to greet other kids that are their friends. I've seen people teach kids to do the "hokey pokey and turn yourself around" when you see your friend. Make it a fun activity to teach little kids how to greet each other without touching."

Map of COVID-19 cases across the US, updated as confirmed by CDC

And then what about going out in public?

"Masks only protect the other people if you're infected. In surgery, the reason the surgeon puts on the dust mask is not to protect the surgeon. It's to protect the patient from the surgeon. So if you have a cold, you're the one that should have the dust mask on. If you know you're going to do some kind of job that's dirty. I would recommend people buying the nitrile gloves, a pack, putting some in the car, putting some at your office desk, putting them in your purse."

If I grabbed the door handle, do I go wash my hands every time?

"If you're grabbing the door handle, you could use a tissue, you could use a napkin, you just don't want to actually physically touch that door. If you've touched the door, that's when you go to your hand sanitizer. So again, having some hand sanitizer is good for you. It's just not your first choice option. I've flown last week, I'm flying this week. The precautions that I'm taking, again, are not so much putting on a mask, but it's making sure that I don't touch and I'm wiping surfaces down on the plane. I'm going to wipe down the the seats and the handles and the trays. Clean the window, clean the wall around the window, if you think you might fall asleep."

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