By DR. Richard Bosshardt
The uncontaminated truth about anti-bacterial soap.
Is it better to use anti-bacterial soap?
This is a question that never seems to stay answered.
The idea that anti-bacterial soaps are somehow better than regular soap is based on a lack of understanding of germ theory. We live literally immersed in a sea of bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The number of bacteria on, or inside, our bodies is estimated to exceed the number of our own cells. We are all Gullivers in a microscopic Lilliputian world of microbes.
Bacteria lives not only on our skin, but inside oil glands, sweat glands, and hair follicles. No amount of scrubbing with any soap is going to eliminate it. Over my 45 years as a surgeon, we have gone from the days of scrubbing our hands and arms for five minutes with a stiff brush, using either povidone iodine or some other germicidal soap, to rubbing our hands and arms for 15 seconds with an alcohol-based solution. Changing our approach hasn’t changed infection rates one little bit.
The idea of bathing and washing is not to kill bacteria; it is to sluice off dead skin cells and reduce the absolute quantity of bacteria on the skin.
One of the big concerns with widespread use of anti-bacterial soaps is the same as for injudicious use of antibiotics for every sniffle, cough, or sore throat: enabling the development of bacteria resistant to these products. Another concern is sensitization to some of these chemicals, causing allergic reactions.
The widespread use of anti-bacterial gels and lotions to mitigate contamination of our hands during the COVID pandemic was illogical and ineffective from the start. When you think about the countless millions of times in your life you have touched public surfaces barehanded without a second thought and yet somehow remained healthy, the lunacy of this becomes obvious to anyone with a little common sense. The same for spraying packages and even food with anti-viral sprays. COVID was airborne, not spread via contact.
So, the simple answer to the question of whether you should routinely use an anti-bacterial soap is “NO!”
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