Hand Sanitizer: Good Hygiene or Just Hype?

Sales of hand sanitizer are up 70 percent as Americans battle colds and flu.

ByABC News via GMA logo
December 5, 2009, 9:31 PM

Dec. 6, 2009— -- The H1N1 flu pandemic has made cleanliness a national obsession. From classrooms to theme parks, Americans are being reminded to wash their hands to prevent the spread of the flu.

But when soap and a sink aren't close by, people rely on the convenience of hand sanitizer.

Sales of the disinfecting gel are soaring, up more than 70 percent since this time last year, according to research by the Nielsen Company.

Casey Beard is a self-proclaimed "germ freak" who uses hand sanitizer up to 40 times a day. He keeps bottles in his bathroom, kitchen, bedroom and car. He even went as far as purchasing hand sanitizer for colleagues at his office. While he's always been wary of germs, reports of the H1N1 virus have made him even more diligent about hygiene.

"I hate shaking people's hands who I know are sick, but if they're not visibly sick or audibly sick, I'm completely OK with it -- because I have hand sanitizer everywhere," he said.

He uses it most frequently when commuting to work or traveling, but he's even careful to use it in his own car.

"The second I get in the car, I like to do a squirt there and rub it on my steering wheel," he said.

His methods may seem excessive, but it's hard to argue with the result.

"I haven't been sick in three years," said Beard.

Sandra Turco is the mother of two daughters, and she keeps the hand sanitizer close at all times.

In the wake of the H1N1 flu outbreak, she's focused on keeping her family healthy. She reminds her eight-year-old daughter to use hand sanitizer during the school day, especially before recess and when she gets off the school bus.

Turco's daughter Allesandra is well trained.

"She said use it a lot," Allesandra said. "It's sort of a pain because mommy always tells me to."

"We have not been sick, knock on wood," said Turco. "So far, we've had a lot of friends who have had the H1N1 [virus], so we were exposed to them. And I'm not sure if it was the hand sanitizer that did it, but we're still healthy and going strong."