Antibacterial soap may not be all it’s cracked up to be when it comes to preventing disease.
It seems inevitable that when one person in a household comes down with a cold or the flu, the whole family winds up sick. Doctors have often said that the best defense against this phenomenon is to simply wash your hands – often, thoroughly and whenever coming in contact with potential contaminants of any kind.
However, according to Dr. Michael Carlston, former assistant clinical professor of family and community medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, antibacterial soaps may not be the best option. Ironically, it’s not because antibacterial soaps don’t work, but rather that they work too well.
Antibacterial soaps do get rid of bacteria, as their names suggest, but it’s more often than not the friendly bacteria that get sabotaged, while the hostile bacteria remain. This puts a person’s guard down quite a bit.
Research proves that people who use antibacterial soaps are no more protected from upper respiratory conditions than those who don’t. In fact, washing often with antibacterial soaps could actually make you more prone to getting sick since they essentially leave you wide open for bad bacteria to roam free.
Some Illness Is Good For You
You never want to get rid of the body’s good bacteria, because it’s these bacteria that prevent disease from running rampant throughout our bodies. They are crucial to keeping our immune systems functioning well. There’s no need to be mysophobic, or as it is termed in pop culture, “germaphobic.” Getting sick does serve a purpose. It allows your immune system a chance to exercise its disease-fighting ability just as exercising allows your muscles a chance to do what they were made to do and do it better.
An immune system that never gets a chance to respond to a challenge will never grow stronger. That being said, illness should be avoided if possible. You shouldn’t seek it out, but it’s just helpful to know that a little sickness every now and then is not a big deal. Like the adage goes, what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger, after all.
An example of this is when babies, in the first year and a half of life, will contract numerous colds during that time, but then gets fewer and fewer colds thereafter. It’s because they have built up immunity as their body has now learned how to respond to the illness.
Except for the fact that certain autoimmune disorders render our immune systems virtually useless, as we age we can still build our immune systems through proper nutrition, exercise, ingesting lots of water, and good hygiene (like washing our hands with our good bacteria intact).