Hand Sanitizing: An Answer to Germophobia?

by Dr. Harlan Sparer, Tempe Chiropractor

The Grandfather of sanitary procedure is Dr. Ignatz Semmelweis, who in the late 19th century suggested that Obstetricians wash their hands after they performed an autopsy or touched a dead body. He was ridiculed by his fellow doctors and died penniless, dispatched as a crazy person from practice as a medical doctor.

In today’s disposable society, we don’t have the time or energy to wash our hands with soap. We employ antibacterial agents for hand “sanitizing,” including the use of carcinogenic Agent Orange derivative Triclosan (present in many preparations). The net effect of using these “sanitizers,” typically and ineffectively, is to accomplish several unintended results.

  1. The outer layer of oil on the skin which acts as an antimicrobial agent is stripped.
  2. Friendly bacteria are killed as well, causing a void filled by “sanitizer” resistant bacteria such as MRSA. MRSA stands for Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus, an infection which only responds to a few antibiotics, if at all. It was virtually nonexistent prior to our love affair with sanitizers and antibiotics.
  3. Regular use destroys the outer layer of skin, exposing less bacteria resistant tissue below it.
  4. They are generally ineffective against viruses.

The most popular ingredient in “sanitizers” after Triclosan is alcohol. While contact with alcohol kills some bacteria, it lacks the ability to emulsify and wash away body fluids, dirt, and many other substances that are full of unhealthy organisms. Ultimately, there is no substitute for good old soap and water for sanitizing your hands. The short cuts just aren’t as effective, despite their convenience. They ultimately create many more problems than they solve.

We know the main reason for why they are ubiquitous. It’s to make money, of course. There were two patients who visited a month ago. They wanted to wipe down the Chiropractic table after one had used it because one had a cold. After mentioning the purpose of disposable headrest paper, they presented the wipes in order to understand the ingredients. The ingredients were identical to baby wipes, but with a label that inferred they could prevent disease. The same goofiness is present at the gym. We are creating a large population of resistant bacteria and viruses that are increasingly common in our day to day environment. The problem of disinfecting has become significant in hospitals and Medical office settings.

The side effects of “sanitizing” agents are substantial and will increase in years to come. Remember that if you use them, you are part of the problem, not part of the solution. The solution is simple: just wash your hands thoroughly with ordinary soap and water.

Hand Sanitizing: An Answer to Germophobia?