This is what everyone should know about bacteria the excessive use of anti-bacterial products.
Bacteria and Anti-bacterial Products
Not all bacteria are considered “bad” and, in fact, we need the “good” bacteria to assist in fending off the bacteria that can cause us to get sick. Unfortunately the ant-bacterial agents we currently use in excess will kill both, leaving us deficient in our body’s own natural defenses.
In the U.S. we seem to move from one extreme to the other rather than the more moderate middle (where sanity and education abide). Here we are left with the major flaws at either end. The case of bacteria and anti-bacterial products is no exception. For example, while not adequately and seriously educating the public much earlier about the importance of simple hand washing techniques, especially in food preparation, we end up with many people getting sick unnecessarily and sometimes seriously and even dying from becoming infected by bacteria on foods which has usually traveled there via unwashed hands and many times to several people at once, capturing the media’s attention. And, as we know, the bad news gets much more attention than the much needed and preventative educational news ever could.
It was back in the mid 80’s that I attended a lecture presented by a doctor who specializes in infectious disease at the hospital where I was working as a nurse. It was like watching a sci-fi movie. He spoke about how bacteria were mutating (changing their shapes) so as not to be vulnerable to the antibiotics lethal grip. This, he told us, was due to the over-prescribing and overuse of antibiotics, and to patients not completing their antibiotic course by finishing the entire bottle of medication prescribed, leaving enough bugs to learn into which shape they would need to mutate. You’ve probably seen the words, “Finish entire bottle,” if you’ve ever taken them. But as I began to ask patients during medication education if they usually finished the bottle, the overwhelming majority said they did not. And when I asked if they knew why they were supposed to take the entire bottle, virtually none had a clue. The reason is so as to kill as many bacteria as possible, if not all, therefore leaving less of a chance of mutation. Now we have drug resistant infections, such as MRSA, of which I never saw one case when I started working as an R.N. in the early 80’s.
So how does this relate to antibacterial products? When the manufactures of things like soap and cleaning products realize the latest “mass public need,” of course, they modify ingredients and go to work on advertising the benefits of their products. Sometimes it is the consumer’s fears that are played upon gently but strongly in order to sell products. The advertisements and commercials are brilliantly orchestrated. We hear the sympathetic voice of concern telling us that if we use their product, we can rest easy knowing we’ve done the best we can do for our children & families. When, in fact, the overuse of antibacterial products, especially soaps and hand sanitizers runs the risk of again taking us to the extreme and doing more harm than good. We have what’s called natural flora (good bacteria) on our hands which fends off the bad bacteria, but we are killing them off with the use of antibacterial products resulting in a weakening of our own natural immunities.
There are, of course, appropriate occasions to use these products. Examples would be, when at a picnic where soap and water for hand washing are not available for use prior to cooking or eating a meal. Hand sanitizer is a great alternative in situations like these. Antibacterial products can be very useful for the busy day care teacher for wiping down play things, in hospitals where there’s not always time for hand washing between patients, or for cleaning suspected germ laden areas of the home like the toilet and around the cracks and crevices of the kitchen sink. But for every day washing of hands and bathing, it’s doing more harm than good. We don’t need it in our dish washing liquid or to wipe up the table and high chair after meals and we certainly should not be cleaning up our babies with it. Our bodies are well equipped to do the job most of the time.
Here are some suggestions that would safely make a difference in the prevention of the spread of bacteria while not harming our natural defenses.
1. Use only regular soap in the home for bathing and hand washing and be diligent about washing hands before eating and after bathroom use, when handling nasty things like garbage or after being in places where many people are touching the same thing such as grocery stores and stadiums. Be sure to rub all areas of the hands for at least 20 seconds and rinse.
2. Change bathroom hand towels, kitchen towels and dish cloths often, preferably daily.
3. Don’t touch your face if you think your hands are dirty. Germs get into our bodies through the eyes, nose, mouth or any other opening. We give them a free ride.
4. If someone in the house has a cold or flu, be sure they are not sharing cups, straws, utensils and give them their own hand towel for now
5. Stay home from work and keep children home from school when sick.
6. If someone in the house has a bacterial infection, this is when I would recommend antibacterial cleaners for door knobs, telephones, remote controls, etc. The common cold is caused by a virus and antibacterial agents and antibiotics have no effect on them.
7. Steer clear of others who are coughing or sneezing; the spray is far reaching. Turn your back if they are close to you.
8. Cover your nose and mouth by coughing or sneezing into the bend of your arm while facing downward. Never use your hand! You’ll only spread by touch.
9. Relax a bit and think practically rather than with fear.