Antibacterial Soaps: Good Or Bad?
Do they really kill germs?
  Frank Barnhill M.D.

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Something like 50% of all the body soaps you can currently buy in the United States contain an anti-bacterial agent. Usually these soaps either use triclosan or triclocarban as “germ killing” ingredients.

Unfortunately, studies have shown there is little difference between using these soaps and using good hand washing technique with a regular soap and clean water, as far as preventing the spread of germs is concerned.  In addition, there is even less data to suggest using antibacterial soaps keeps you from developing a serious skin infection. And to top it all, there is now evidence a few bacteria are developing resistance to the chemical, triclosan.

Could we be doing more harm than good using antibacterial soaps?

It appears that children exposed to many common germs, dust and pollens during their early years may actually develop stronger immune systems, fewer allergies, and fewer lung problems such as asthma. In addition, un-necessary antibiotics may actually delay or prevent development of this stronger immune system.

The FDA suggests using a good soap and clean water to wash your hands to prevent spread of disease. And, when clean water is not available, using an alcohol containing hand sanitizer will adequately do the job. Alcohol is an excellent germ killer as it destroys them by breaking down their proteins.

So, maybe all that strict hand washing isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.

Just a thought!
Dr. Frank



Clinical updates: American Academy of Family Physicians 2006

Lesney MS. FDA panel: no benefit in consumer antibacterials. Family Practice News. 2005

These health tips are offered for your common sense use and are not intended to take the place of a visit to your doctor.  Your use of the materials implies your understanding that nothing herein contained represents individual medical advice.

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