Antiviral Soap and Hepatitis Prevention: The Truth About Shopping Carts
In a post covid world where public health and hygiene are more critical than ever, concerns about contracting viruses from everyday objects like shopping carts have become prevalent. One particular worry is the risk of contracting hepatitis through touch. This article delves into the role of soap and how it prevents STD infections, particularly how antiviral soap helps in preventing hepatitis infection and other viral infections you might come across through objects. We specifically talk about shopping carts in this example but our recommendation apply to all high touch surfaces in heavily trafficked areas.
Understanding Hepatitis Transmission Through Touch
Hepatitis, a disease characterized by inflammation of the liver, can be caused by different viruses, among which Hepatitis A is most commonly associated with transmission through touch or contaminated surfaces.
- Hepatitis A: This type is primarily spread through the fecal-oral route, meaning it can be transmitted if you touch your mouth after handling something contaminated with the feces of an infected person. Shopping carts, handled by numerous people throughout the day, can potentially be a surface for such transmission, albeit the risk is generally low.
The Role of Antiviral Soap in Prevention
- Handwashing Post-Exposure: Handwashing with antiviral soap is a key preventive measure against Hepatitis A. Washing your hands as soon as possible after touching a potentially contaminated surface like a shopping cart can significantly reduce the risk of infection.
- Effectiveness of Antiviral Soap: Unlike antibacterial soap, which targets bacteria, antiviral soap is formulated to disrupt the structure of viruses, including the Hepatitis A virus. This makes it more effective in neutralizing viruses on your hands.
Handwashing Timeliness: Can Hepatitis A Absorb into Skin
An essential aspect of understanding the transmission of Hepatitis A, especially in the context of touching contaminated surfaces like shopping carts, is knowing whether the virus can absorb into the skin.
- Hepatitis A Absorption: The Hepatitis A virus cannot absorb through intact skin. The skin, being an effective barrier, prevents the virus from entering the body in this way. The primary risk arises when the virus is transferred from the hands to the mouth, nose, or eyes, where it can enter the body through mucous membranes.
- Importance of Timely Handwashing: Given that Hepatitis A cannot penetrate healthy skin, the focus shifts to the timeliness of handwashing to prevent oral ingestion of the virus. Washing hands immediately after touching a potentially contaminated surface significantly reduces the risk of transferring the virus to your mouth or other mucous membranes.
- Scenario After Touching Contaminated Surfaces: If you’ve handled a shopping cart or any other surface that might be contaminated, it’s crucial to wash your hands before eating, touching your face, or preparing food. This action disrupts the potential chain of transmission, greatly reducing the chance of infection.
- Effectiveness of Handwashing: Regular handwashing with soap and water is highly effective in removing Hepatitis A virus particles from your hands. The mechanical action of washing, combined with the surfactant properties of soap, helps dislodge and rinse away the virus.
While Hepatitis A does not absorb through the skin, its transmission can occur through the transfer of the virus from contaminated hands to the mouth or other entry points. Therefore, washing hands promptly after touching potentially contaminated surfaces is a key preventive measure against Hepatitis A infection.
Alternative Precautions with Shopping Carts
- Wipes for Shopping Carts: Many stores provide wipes for customers to use on shopping cart handles. These wipes can be effective in killing or removing bacteria and some viruses from surfaces. But to be sure they will help on surface that might be contaminated with Hepatitis A they should be alcohol-based wipes.
- Alcohol-Based Hand Sanitizers: If soap and water are not immediately available, using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good alternative. These sanitizers can be effective against the Hepatitis A virus.
Hand Sanitizer vs. Antiviral Soap: Which is More Effective Against Hepatitis A?
When it comes to preventing the transmission of Hepatitis A, understanding the effectiveness of hand sanitizer compared to antiviral soap is crucial. Both have their roles in maintaining hygiene, but their efficacy can vary based on the situation and how they are used.
- Hand Sanitizer: Alcohol-based hand sanitizers, ideally with at least 60% alcohol content, are effective in killing many types of germs, including viruses like Hepatitis A. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol in situations where soap and water are not available. They are a convenient option when soap and water are not readily available. However, their effectiveness decreases when hands are visibly dirty or greasy. In such cases, the physical debris can shield the virus from the alcohol, reducing the sanitizer’s efficacy.
- Antiviral Soap: Antiviral soap, on the other hand, is specifically formulated to target and disrupt viruses, including Hepatitis A. When used properly with water, antiviral soap not only kills the virus but also physically removes it from the skin through the mechanical action of washing and rinsing. This is particularly effective when hands are soiled, as the soap can cut through the grease and dirt, ensuring a more thorough removal of the virus.
- Carry Your Own Wipes/Sanitizer: Since not all stores provide wipes, carrying your own alcohol-based wipes can be a practical way to clean shopping cart handles before use.
- Avoid Touching Your Face: Be mindful of not touching your face, especially your mouth, nose, and eyes, after handling public surfaces and before washing your hands.
While the risk of contracting Hepatitis A from shopping carts is relatively low, it’s still important to practice good hygiene. Washing hands with antiviral soap, alcohol based hand sanitizer or using alcohol wipes on shopping cart handles, railings, doorways or other high trafficked areas is a great way to help stop the spread of viruses and certain STDs. Being mindful of hand-to-face contact are simple yet effective measures to reduce this risk as well. Remember, prevention is key, and maintaining good hand hygiene is a crucial step in protecting not just against hepatitis but a wide array of infections.
Medically Reviewed by Joshua Hwang, MD on November 22, 2023
Author: Lauren Crain
Lauren Crain is a writer, designer, and joke-teller. With an academic background from Texas State University in communication and education, Lauren works tirelessly to find the best way to transform hard-to-grasp concepts into straightforward information. She's been a writer her whole life, but she began writing professionally in 2014. In 2018, she joined the STDcheck.com editorial staff because of her passion for communicating information about public health and destigmatizing sexual health. Before becoming a member of the STDcheck.com team, Lauren worked as a communication skills teacher, marketing coordinator, and freelance writer and designer. Her work has been featured on Forbes, The Muse, Insider, Clutch.co, Her Campus, and Business News Daily. When she's not researching, writing, or trying to communicate authentically, you can find her sitting outside.