By Dr. Anthony Policastro

I was recently in South Carolina. The pick up station had hand sanitizer. It was on top of a counter. I had to reach up to push the plunger. It was partially plugged. The sanitizer came out at an angle and some of it splashed in my eye.

Hand sanitizer in the eye can be a bad thing. The alcohol can cause burns. I was able to flush my eye out soon after. The burning sensation took about two hours to go away.

This led me to think about offering some hand sanitizer use advice. Proper use of hand sanitizer starts with selecting one that has at least 60 percent alcohol. Enough sanitizer should be used to make sure all surfaces of the hands and fingers are covered. That includes the areas between the fingers. Rubbing should continue for about 20 seconds until the sanitizer is dry.

Another piece of advice is somewhat obvious. Hand sanitizer is a poison for young children that drink it. The level of alcohol is high enough to give alcohol poisoning even at low doses. That means like any other poisons, it should be kept out of reach and out of sight.

Some people may be tempted to use hand sanitizer in locations other than the hands. Those locations should not be near the eyes. Some may get in by accident.

Others may inadvertently touch their eyes for other reasons. This might actually be a habit. It is worth remembering to try and not do that after using sanitizer.

The level of hand sanitizer should be below the eyes. This was the error that the store I was in made. Gravity pulls the liquid down. If it starts out below your eyes, it tends to remain there.

That being said, sometimes the opening can get partially plugged and send the liquid in an undesired direction. That means the opening should be kept free of debris.

There is a recommended approach for instances when some of the material does get in the eyes. As I indicated when it happened to me, I flushed my eye with running tap water. The flushing should continue for about 15 minutes. A water bottle might be the best way to do it.

Once the process is complete, the eye should be examined. If there is evidence of a burn, the individual should be checked for a burn. Evidence includes redness, pain or trouble seeing.

You would think that I would have thought about doing this 18 months ago. However, sometimes the inspiration comes from going to a store and squirting hand sanitizer in your eye.

COVID update- Last week the number of new cases nationally was 2,918,000. This week it rose to 5,121,000. In Sussex County the number rose from 3,070 to 3,459. The rise was more modest than the national numbers.

We know that the Omicron variant is more infectious than other variants. One might wonder just how much more infectious it is. We can put in perspective by comparing the before and after number of new cases.

It took from the beginning of the pandemic until Dec. 7 of last year to reach 50 million cases. Between Dec. 10 and Jan. 10 we had an additional 11 million cases. It means about 1/6 of the total cases occurred in the last month. The other 5/6 of the cases occurred over a 21 month period.

The CDC kind of found itself in a dilemma because of this increase. With a 10 day recommended quarantine, a huge number of people would miss a great deal of time from work. The economy would likely grind to a halt.

They reasoned that infected individuals are most contagious for the first five days. Therefore, they decided to cut the recommended quarantine from 10 days to five days. That made sense from the standpoint of keeping things running. 

However, from a purely scientific standpoint it made less sense. The pure scientists in this country were not pleased with the decision. No matter what the CDC decided someone was going to be unhappy with it.

We already know that the Omicron virus peaked in South Africa in about a month’s time. The United Kingdom was the second country to have a spike. It appears to also be reaching a peak very quickly as well. 

If the same thing holds true in the U.S., we can expect a peak sometime later this month. Case numbers should start dropping after that. The big question at that point will be whether we will have finally reached herd immunity for the virus. 

Israel has started giving a second booster to its population. It is showing that antibody levels are about five times higher. That is not a surprise. If you give a booster, you will get higher levels. What it has not shown is whether those higher levels do anything at all to reduce infections. 

You need a certain level of antibodies to protect you. You don’t get better protection from a higher level of antibodies than that.