When I was reading my latest obsession, Anna and the French Kiss there was a passage that left me thinking. Not because, like so many other spots in the book, I marveled at the language, or crushed on Etienne. No, I was left thinking because there was a part of me because I was horrified. Could it be true? I wondered.

          “You are so getting oral herpes.” I whip out my hand sanitizer and squeeze a glob into my hands. “Seriously, you should put some of this on your lips.”

           Josh shakes his head. “You are so neurotic. Do you take that everywhere?”

          ”You know,” Rashmi says. “I’ve heard that if you use too much of that stuff, you can actually desensitize yourself to germs and get more sick.”

          I freeze. “What? No.”

         -from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

And today, I heard someone in my office say the very same thing after the director of our department whipped out his hand sanitizer. So, being the sanitizing girl that I am (I have 3 hand sanitizers in my car, along with Wet Ones, a hand sanitizer for my purse. When I’m in my own place, I also try to keep a pump of hand sanitizer next to the sink for extra sterilization).

So I did what anyone of my generation would do when seeking reassurance: I turned to the internet.

It turns out that while I couldn’t find anything that confirmed a desensitizing to hand sanitizer or building an immunity to it, I did learn some things:

  • Hand sanitizer does not, according to the FDA protect against MRSA, E. coli, salmonella, flu, or other bacteria or viruses. -WebMD
  • Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be poisonous if ingested, which I hope you are all smart enough not to do. But keep it away from the kiddos. -WebMD
  • Hand sanitizers were also found in a 2010 study to be ineffective against rhinovirus: the cause of the common cold. -The Herald Review

Despite these facts, the FDA still recommends using hand sanitizer if you don’t have access to soap and water

God knows, I will. I have bottles and bottles of the stuff!