- Which is more effective at removing germs, washing with soap and water or using hand sanitizers?
- Does regular handwashing with antibacterial soap prevent disease?
I've run across some claims stating that the regular use of hand sanitizers by healthy people is not only ineffective, but that a "germ free" approach to life, in actuality, is potentially harmful to the human immune system. Here are some examples:
Also, the body’s best defense against disease agents is its own immune system. You keep the immune system primed by ALLOWING it access to disease agents. People who live in plastic bubbles never have a chance to develop immunities, so when disease agents inevitably get through the plastic wrap, the body has little defense. (source)
Other studies suggest that ultra-clean environments and the persistent use of antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers may inhibit proper immune system development in children. This is because inflammatory systems require greater exposure to common germs for proper development. (source)
Killing off the friendly bacteria can damage our natural defenses against other infections. We definitely don’t want to kill off that bacteria. In regards to the bad bacteria, or the ones that can cause sicknesses, it’s not certain that its in our best interest to kill them either. There is considerable evidence that some exposure to bacteria in the environment is actually beneficial because it helps the immune system develop. Some studies have shown an increase in allergies and asthma in people who were raised in an overly sterile environment. (source)
Some summary questions:
- Does hand sanitizer use hamper immune system development/effectiveness compared to using soap (non anti-bacterial/microbial) and water (assume same frequency of use)?
- Is frequent hand sanitizer use correlated with a "hyperactive" immune system (allergy/asthma prone)?
- Is there evidence that germs/microbes/etc. on the hands have a significant part to play in a person's likelihood of getting sick when some larger future exposure occurs?