I've always been one to chuckle to myself at "those people" who carry hand sanitizer around. I don't keep my house clean by any means, but I have always assuaged my guilt with the rationale that it's good for my kids' immune systems (and it is). The only reason I have any antibacterial hand soap in my house is because I got a bunch for free with coupons last year. I'm not a germaphobe because I know that there are germs, bacteria, and viruses lurking everywhere. Everywhere. And I think our attempts to avoid them are somewhat delusional, and sometimes only succeed in turning the bugs into supers.
So my approach has always been... rather than trying to kill/avoid the bugs, make it possible for us to live in peace with them by strengthening our immune systems so they're no longer a threat. So far my approach has worked well. We rarely get sick, but when we do it's usually because we've let our immune systems get weak by staying up too late (repeatedly) or eating too much sugar.
The problem is... your immune system can't protect you from everything. Sometimes a healthy immune system malfunctions. Sometimes those malfunctions manifest themselves in frightening ways. As some of you are aware, my baby was admitted to the hospital last week with what they eventually diagnosed as Henoch-Schonlein Purpura (HSP). HSP usually occurs when the body is exposed to a bug and sort of overreacts to it and causes the capillaries in the skin to become inflamed and bleed creating a rash, aches, and swelling. It's not fun. Here's a pic of my Bubby from Sunday...So although he never got "sick" with the bug, the bug did make him "sick" by provoking his immune system to overreact.
The good news is that he's doing much, much better. The swelling has disappeared and the rash is slowly fading. He is almost back to his happy self again. The bad news is that a good portion of those who experience HSP will have another bout of it, usually within a month through exposure to another virus. One bout of HSP was more than enough for us! And I no longer have the illusion that I can live in complete peace with the germs around us. Any one of those bugs could bring another HSP nightmare upon us. (This experience only fueled my distaste for hospitals and the "bad eggs" of the medical establishment... ugh!)
So I've turned into a germaphobe. At least temporarily. I will not be taking my baby to the store, to the school, to the church, or any public place for at least a few weeks (or months?). I will be slathering my daughters' hands in sanitizer before they get into the car after kindergarten and preschool. And we will be washing our hands thoroughly first thing when we walk in the door.
As I was talking to my brother about my new-found-inner-germaphobe, he mentioned that there are natural hand sanitizers out there if I want to avoid the harsh commercial ones. Did you know that the alcohol-based versions say they're not suitable for infants? So that got me thinking... maybe I could make my own natural sanitizer? I turned to google and found quite a few recipes. They all had roughly the same ingredients, but with quite an array of proportions. So I took a couple of them and sort of morphed them to make my own version using the ingredients I had.
Disclaimer: I'm no chemist. I have no idea if this will actually kill germs. It's my understanding that a sanitizer has to be at least 60% alcohol to do the job, but I don't know what proportions are necessary when you're using other antibacterial agents. Here's what I do know: vinegar and lavender essential oil can be used as antibacterials. So I figure that whether or not my natural hand sanitizer kills everything, it's bound to be better than nothing. I chose lavender because I had a bottle in the cupboard and it's safer for children than the more potent tea tree oil most of the sanitizer recipes called-for.
So here's what we used... Natural Hand Sanitizer
1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
1/2 cup distilled water
approximately 1 3/4 cup 100% aloe vera gel (12 oz bottle)
14 drops lavender essential oil
We mixed the ingredients in a glass bowl with a whisk and then poured the mixture into an empty soap dispenser. The remainder we poured back into the aloe vera bottle to use for refills. My husband and I tested it out last night. I was initially worried that it would either smell too strongly of vinegar or too strongly of lavender. Neither of those smells is really noticeable. In fact, mostly it smells like the aloe gel with just a hint of vinegar and lavender. Not bad at all. A bonus to using these ingredients--alcohol-based versions will dry out the skin, but aloe vera and lavender will benefit the skin.
Will it work? I don't know. But here's my plan... I will use our "natural" sanitizer when I know we will soon be able to wash our hands (after-school, etc.). But I will also keep commercial sanitizer in the car for times when we are in exceptionally germy situations or not likely to have access to a sink or soap within a short period of time. So it'll be good enough for our purposes.
Anybody else make their own sanitizer? Does it seem to work for you?