Monday, July 23, 2007

Antibacterial Soaps vs. Simple Hand Washing

Antibacterial soaps seem to be the latest rage in cleanliness. There are antibacterial hand-washing soaps, antibacterial sprays for surfaces, antibacterial wipes, laundry detergents, and instant hand sanitizers. There are several different types of antibacterial agents on the market and each product may contain a different antibacterial agent.

In the past few years there has been increasing concern that these products may be contributing to the development of resistant bacteria in the community. While no one believes them to be the significant cause, the FDA monitors these agents.

Frequently children with skin problems like atopic dermatitis and eczema benefit from using an antibacterial soap to decrease their skin bacterial counts. By decreasing their bacterial counts and aggressively moisturizing their skin they can better keep their eczema under control.

In terms of preventing the spread of illness, a recent study done in preschool age children showed that antibacterial soap actually was no more effective then regular soap in decreasing illnesses with diarrhea. However, hand-washing in general significantly reduces illness and decreases the spread of disease.

One of the most important health care tips you can pass on to your kids is how to wash for 20-30 seconds, lather well, use a lot of friction (to get rid of dead skin and dirt that harbors germs), and rinse thoroughly. Teach them to wash the germs away!

Zoey Goore, MD, MPH

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