Coronavirus: Can baby wipes replace disinfectant wipes?

As the novel coronavirus pandemic unfolds, Canadians continue to stockpile cleaning supplies like hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and bleach solutions.

When faced with empty store shelves, some people have reached for alternatives — like homemade hand sanitizer or baby wipes.

However, experts like Dr. Dina Kulik, a pediatrician in Toronto, worry that people might overestimate the efficacy of baby wipes in killing germs and preventing the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

Most baby wipes sold in stores do contain alcohol — the central germ-killing ingredient — but at a much lower percentage than what is required to kill the novel coronavirus.

“We know what kills COVID-19 is an alcohol solution that is 70 per cent or more alcohol,” Kulik told Global News.

“Wipes absolutely don’t have that much alcohol.”

This is because baby wipes are intended for use on sensitive baby skin. Using 70 per cent alcohol would cause “significant rashes and potentially even burning of the skin,” Kulik said.

“(Baby wipes) have as little (alcohol) as needed to gently cleanse the skin, but they’re not sterilizing.”

Homemade hand sanitizer isn’t really ideal, either.

According to Dr. Alon Vaisman, a resident in the faculty of medicine at the University of Toronto and an expert in infection control, DIY hand sanitizer may be an effective way to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus if it’s made correctly, but it’s not foolproof.

“In the right hands, done with a great deal of caution, it may be helpful,” he previously told Global News. “But people might not do it effectively. People might not know what they’re doing and make concoctions that aren’t effective … and might be costly to them.

“This isn’t a standardized or approved product, and it shouldn’t be used in place of other things.”

The World Health Organization (WHO) has an official recommendation for the local production of hand sanitizer, but it’s really only intended for populations in the world that don’t have access to medical-grade products, said Vaisman.

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“The recommendations and the ingredients are all directed towards low-resource settings across the world,” he said.

As an individual trying to remain vigilant about avoiding the new coronavirus, try to find a balance between efficacy and accessibility, said Vaisman.

While it’s difficult to prove a direct link, Health Canada believes the spike is due to increased exposure to these products in the home because people are stockpiling items during the pandemic and cleaning more due to fear of spreading COVID-19.

The agency says that people spending more time at home due to the pandemic is also a considerable factor.

There has been a similar spike in accidental poisonings seen in the U.S., according to a recent report published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

— With files from Global News’ Maryam Shah

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