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Since the mid 1990s, a seemingly endless line of antibacterial products has flooded the consumer market. If your household is like most, all you have to do is look in your bathroom or kitchen to find the latest germ-killing soap or spray. With literally hundreds of products on the market, no self-respecting germ stands a chance but is this necessarily good?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the current situation with antibacterial products is similar to the situation created with antibiotics which were misused and overused for decades in treating bacterial infections. That situation has resulted in bacteria strains that have developed antibiotic resistance where the standard antibiotics are no longer effective. The problem is a "global health crisis". Similarly, the recent proliferation of antibacterial surface cleaners may eventually pose resistance problems in healthy households. In addition to killing "bad" bacteria (and enabling resistant strains to develop), these agents also eliminate common bacteria which are necessary in our environment and on our bodies to fight infection and develop basic immunities. What many people do not realize is that most childhood and adult communicable diseases are viral in nature, not bacterial. Antibacterial products and antibiotics have no use against viral infections which must run their course.
Another danger is that we may develop a false sense of security and become lax in basic hygenic practices such as hand washing. The CDC claims that thorough hand washing would help prevent some 79 million cases of food-related illnesses that occur each year in the United States alone. The CDC continues to state "if you have good hand washing technique, antimicrobial soap is not necessary."
What is the correct way to wash your hands? The CDC offers this recommendation:
As always, consult your family physician for his recommendation and educate yourself on the subject. Bacteria have been around since the dawn of time. With its amazing ability to adapt and mutate, bacteria, in its many forms, will most certainly be here long after we are gone. We have coexisted for millennia, we can continue to do so with a little caution.
Did You Know?
The CDC estimates that one out of three people do not wash their hands after using the restroom.
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