Nova Scotia

Amid coronavirus fears, N.S. pharmacist says soap and water is better than hand sanitizer

A pharmacist in Nova Scotia is urging her patrons to be patient when it comes to buying masks and sanitizers. They simply don't have any to sell, nor do they know when supplies might return to normal. She also says washing with soap and water is more effective.

Pharmacist Sabrina McLean says if you insist on using sanitizers, make sure the gels are at least 60% alcohol

Sabrina McLean is a pharmacist at MacKay's PharmaChoice in Dartmouth, N.S. (CBC)

A pharmacist in Nova Scotia is urging her patrons to be patient when it comes to buying masks and sanitizers. They simply don't have any to sell, nor do they know when supplies might return to normal.

"First, it was the masks that we saw go really quickly, so I wasn't surprised to kind of see the hand sanitizer follow suit," said Sabrina McLean, a pharmacist at MacKay's PharmaChoice in Dartmouth.

"People are looking for whatever they can to protect themselves," she said.

The hand sanitizer shelves at her pharmacy have been empty for two weeks, although it doesn't appear people are stockpiling yet, she said.

"Most people are actually being pretty reasonable. They're sticking to one or two," McLean said.

Hand sanitizer at a pharmacy. (Michael Wilson/CBC)

She said most people don't realize that washing with regular soap and water is actually more effective than the alcoholic gels. If you insist on them, she said to make sure the gels are at least 60 per cent alcohol.

McLean said her store generally orders hand sanitizer from a wholesaler.

"Right now when we ask, they say there's nothing available. I hear we may be getting some in later this week. There's not really any guarantees," she said.

Stockpiling supplies because of the coronavirus outbreak may make people feel prepared, but it could mean there isn’t enough for those in need. 1:58

Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Dalhousie University's school of management who specializes in food distribution, said we're inclined to "panic shop" when we're unprepared.

Whether it's a storm or an outbreak of a deadly virus that could force us to be housebound or quarantined, he said it's best not to overreact. His advice is to always have enough food in the house to get through at least three days.

"What's important here is to actually be prepared. Get supplies once in a while. When you go out grocery shopping, buy a few extra items, replenish as you need to, and keep calm," he said.

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About the Author

Preston Mulligan has been a reporter in the Maritimes for more than 20 years. Along with his reporting gig, he also hosts CBC Radio's Sunday phone-in show, Maritime Connection.